The essence of the different pictures that James uses to illustrate the function of the tongue in our lives is the same: the tongue is something small in itself, but capable of causing incalculable harm if left unchecked. Of the four particular pictures that I referred to (the bit in the horse’s mouth, the rudder in the ship, a spark that starts a forest fire, and a source of poison that corrupts the whole lifestream), the one that best illustrates the tremendous potential of the tongue is that of the rudder in the ship.
The rudder is visually just a small part of the ship that is down below the surface. You do not see it when you look at the ship sailing on the surface of the water. Yet that small part, which is not normally visible to the eye, determines the direction of the ship. If the rudder is used correctly, the ship will make it safely to its destined harbour. But if the rudder is misused, almost certainly the ship will suffer shipwreck. The rudder determines the course and the destiny of the entire ship.
The Bible says the tongue is like that in our bodies. When we look at people from outward appearances, normally we do not even see their tongues. Yet that small, unnoticed member is just like the rudder in the ship. The tongue’s use determines the course of the person’s life. It determines his or her destiny.
To continue our study, next time we will consider an example from the history of Israel in Numbers, chapters 13 and 14, that drives home this lesson with inescapable clarity. The lesson to learn is this: men and women determine their own destinies by the way they use their tongues.
Dear Father, I thank You that You have prepared a destiny for me and I understand that entering into that destiny depends greatly on what I say. Please give me a deeper understanding of this important truth and help me to use 'the rudder' of my life correctly. In Jesus' Name, Amen.