The Bible compares the tongue to a rudder of a ship and to a bit in the mouth of a horse. Though relatively small, all three of those, the rudder, the bit and the tongue have tremendous power. A rudder turns a ship, a bit turns a horse and our tongue turns our lives in the direction we will go. Your tongue can take you into calm or troubled waters. It can make or break your relationship. Emily Dickinson says, “A word is dead when it is said, some say. I say it just begin to live that day.”
The tongue is our principle steering mechanism; God wants to take you to all sorts of fascinating places. However, in order to reach these destinations, you will need to put your hand to the wheel to take control of your steering mechanism – your tongue. Have you discovered that whether you sail into calm or troubled waters depends great deal on the words that come out of your mouth? The tongue is the rudder that determines the destination of your ship.
In verse 6, James compares the tongue to a spark of fire that burns down an entire forest. According to James, the tongue sets the whole course of a person’s life on fire. The Greek word for “whole course” is trochos, which means “genesis” or the beginning. By using this word, James implies that the tongue is the hub – the beginning of the whole round of human life and activity. “Likewise the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what great forest is set on fire by a small spark. The tongue also is a fire……It corrupts the whole person, sets the whole course of his life on fire.” James 3:5-6
Imagine that the outer rim of the wheel represents all your life circumstances and all the activities you are involved in. The spoke of the wheel represent your relationships – family members, friends coworkers, or neighbors. According to James, the tongue is like the hub at the centre. His point is that our tongues play a central, hublike role in our lives. He wants us to recognize that a small spark of evil on our tongue has the capacity to destroy all of our relationships and even our whole lives.
If the hub of the wheel is on fire, the fire can quickly burn in all directions down the spokes to the rim of the wheel. From the burning hub, the whole wheel can be engulfed in flames.
Words are powerful, cold words freeze people, and hot words scorch them. Words can heal, soothing with balm, or cripple, drawing blood like a dagger. They make or break relationships, build up or tear down, bring peace or conflicts, determine the destiny of individuals, families and Nation. That two-ounce muscle between our teeth is more powerful that any other muscle in your body, that’s why its so important to control.
Free and untamed, our words can cause lots of damage. According to James, godliness involves bridling the free, uninhibited nature of the tongue and actively controlling the direction of our speech so that it becomes productive instead of destructive. To harness the power of navigation, we need to put our hand to the ruins, take control of our words, and steer them in a positive direction.