3 Indeed, we put bits in horses’ mouths that they may obey us, and we turn their whole body. 4 Look also at ships: although they are so large and are driven by fierce winds, they are turned by a very small rudder wherever the pilot desires. 5 Even so the tongue is a little member and boasts great things. See how great a forest a little fire kindles! (James 3:3–5, NKJV)
We do well to ponder the power and potential of the tongue. Under the figures of horses, ships and fire, the Holy Spirit teaches us both. The mighty horse is brought under the rider’s control by the bit, the steed’s power directed at the will of the rider. The powerful tongue, when properly directed, accomplished great good. As a small rudder is potent to turn a large ship against forceful winds, the tongue’s potential is not to be calculated by its size. Just as a small fire can turn a forest into an inferno, this little member, the tongue, possesses the power of death and life (Prov. 18:21). As the horseman and the helmsman must train to effectively direct the horse and steer the ship, we must train ourselves in godliness, and use our words for “necessary edification” (Eph. 4:29).