The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole person, sets the whole course of his life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell.To say the least, James is using strong speech. Let's just see how he describes the tongue: It is a fire. It is a world of evil. It corrupts the whole person. It sets the whole course of a person's life on fire. The tongue itself is set on fire by hell. Wow.
If you look at this as an overreaction or you feel that this is a bit extreme, please try to remember who the author is. I am not referring to James, sure he penned these words, but we know that scripture is inspired by God... All scripture.
Therefore, we know that the tongue, which simply stands as a representative for our ability to communicate, has been affected by the fall in a terrible way. We can go through life with the understanding that our speech is bent toward sin and the speech of others is bent that direction as well. It is no wonder that so many of our problems are rooted in the way we relate to others.
I was recently doing a "project" in my Bible classes that were pertaining to the "put off - put on" concepts in scripture, and part of that project was for my students to pick something that they were working on, or more accurately, that God was working on. The day that they came in with their topics I asked the question, before hearing any of their choices, "How many of you picked a topic that has something to do with how you relate to other people?" 100% said yes, and more than 75% picked something relating to their relationship with a brother or sister.
As we worked through the topics I noticed that communication, whether it was how they were communicating or their reaction to how they had been communicated with, kept coming up. The words of James don't sound so extreme when you begin to analyze our society. This was just a couple of Bible classes at a small Christian School, but I challenge you to consider how many of your problems/challenges are associated with the "tongue."