God revealed Himself to Abraham and said, "I am Almighty God; walk before Me and be blameless" (Gen 17:1). To be a perfect person is not only God’s command to us, it must also be the desire of our conscience. Although it is difficult to attain such a goal, we must strain toward it with all our effort in order to please God.
What is the image of a "perfect man"? James did not list many criteria. He mentioned only the issue of "words." Restraining one’s tongue is the start to becoming a perfect person. If anyone can completely control his tongue and be faultless in what he says, he has already understood an important aspect of becoming a perfect person.
In our daily lives, we have many opportunities to speak. If we were to keep quiet for long periods of time, the whole world would likely be in chaos, because everyone would go insane living in complete silence. Language is essential for communicating with each other. Without words, people would not be able to exchange ideas and opinions. How could people coexist peacefully in a non-communicative world? Without any expression of thoughts and feelings, how could we transcend isolation and individualism?
The discovery of fire was critical to the development of civilization. Yet a spark of fire can burn up a whole pasture. According to James, the tongue is like a fire. As an instrument of communication, it is as necessary as fire for the development and sustenance of life. But unchecked speech leaves behind endless troubles. The right word is like an apple of gold in a setting of silver. An improper word not only ruins the person who speaks it, but also corrupts others.
So how can we be perfect? Keeping silent for fear of saying something wrong is analogous to giving up eating for fear of choking. Two good guides for speaking are being slow and being careful. Do not say anything if there is no need. What must be spoken should be carefully considered. Equip yourself with knowledge, with the wisdom that comes from knowing God’s truth, and let that be the source of your words.