¢ James is talking to teachers and concludes "shew out of a good conversation his works with meekness of wisdom." in v.13.
¢ If you do not offend people with your words, you can lead the whole church.
Jesus is the one who's words do not offend. There is no condemnation. He leads the whole church
|Jas 3:3 Behold, we put bits in the horses’  mouths, that they may obey us; and we turn about their whole body.
¢ Leadership by the bit demands obedience.
|Jas 3:4 Behold also the ships, which though [they be] so great, and [are] driven of fierce winds , yet are they turned about with a very small helm , whithersoever the governor  listeth.
¢ Leadership by the rudder nudges compliance.
|Jas 3:5 Even so the tongue  is a little member , and boasteth great things . Behold, how great a matter a little fire  kindleth!
¢ § "Though the babbler is a small member of the church, see how much trouble he can stir up."
|Jas 3:6 And the tongue [is] a fire, a world of iniquity: so is the tongue among our members, that it defileth the whole body, and setteth on fire the course of nature; and it is set on fire of hell. |
|Jas 3:7 For every kind of beasts  , and of birds  , and of serpents  , and of things in the sea  , is tamed, and hath been tamed of mankind:|
|Jas 3:8 But the tongue can no man tame; [it is] an unruly evil, full of deadly poison. |
|Jas 3:10 Out of the same mouth proceedeth blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not so to be. |
|Jas 3:11 Doth a fountain send forth at the same place sweet [water] and bitter? |
|Jas 3:12 Can the fig tree , my brethren, bear olive  berries? either a vine , figs ? so [can] no fountain both yield salt  water and fresh .|
¢ James previously spoke of faith || works. With his pattern ABBA (A=wisdom, B=works) he identifies the works the wise man is to do: good conversation. He is making an analogy of Faith is to wisdom as works is to good conversation.
"I will show you my wisdom by good conversation of knowledge."
The point is subtle. Works do not boast of faith, as the knowledge is not boastful as it demonstrates wisdom. Knowledge and works display the wisdom and faith, with meekness.
The passage in question must be properly identified for genre before it can be interpreted.
The OP has identified it as a literal statement, and as such, questions it's veracity.
In close reading, here are some observations:
v1: written to teachers. Q: Do teachers sometimes speak in riddles to other teachers so as not to lose their advantage; something like spelling out C-A-N-D-Y in front of the kids.
v1: Who will condemn the teacher? Certainly NOT Christ since in him there is no condemnation. Apparently he is speaking of condemnation by the students.
v1: Appears to conclude with v13.. therefore display your works of faith with a good conversation.
v2: How do the teachers offend all? Is all all? If so, then they do so by preaching the gospel which is an offense to all.
v2: 'Offend' in Greek means fall or cause to fall (sin). Since all sin is against God, when we take offense, we make ourselves equal to God. When we cause others to take offense, we cause them to sin. Do teachers cause all men to sin? Compare to Ro 7:11ff where teaching the law causes sin to spring up.
v2: Who is the perfect man? Yet even Jesus caused people to judge him unjustly with his teaching. This is riddle, not contradiction.
v3: The bridle controls by coersion. Leadership by bit demands obedience.
v4: The rudder controls by gentle persuation; it nudges compliance.
- This is beginning to look like a teacher talking to teachers about teaching.
v5: 'Tongue' also means 'babbler'. Could he be speaking of the misuse of tongues.
v5. How does a tongue boast? Is this anthropomorphism or euphemism for the boasting babbler who declares "I speak to God in his language and you don't"?
v5. How much trouble can a babbler cause?
v6. How is a tongue a fire? What is the simily? Or does it speak in riddle "The babbler is a spirit, a wold of sin. It defiles the whole church (as others who oppose it do so in the flesh which is enflamed by the babbler.
v7. If this is literal, is it true? Does 'every' mean 'every'? Beasts, birds and things of the sea, refer back to Gen 1. It excludes 'living creature' [alive with soul], cattle, and creaping thing. The serpent isn't mentioned. There appears to be a riddle.
v8. Is this anthropomorphic in giving the tongue a will of it's own, but implying that no man can control himself? Does it talk to the issue of the babbler, where his ego and pride drive him to seek the attention?
v9, 10 How can such arrogance give blessings?
James previously spoke of showing your faith by your works, now he speaks of showing your wisdom with the good works of gentle conversation in dealing with the babbler. Why would he speak in riddle; one teacher to another? So as not to give ammo to the babbler.