How is the Tongue like the Rudder of a Ship?
In James 3:4-5, the Bible compares the tongue to the rudder of a ship.
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. Even so the tongue is a little member and boasts great things. James 3:4-5
What does this verse mean? How is the tongue like the rudder of a ship?
The tongue is like the rudder of a ship in that it steers a person’s life in the same way the rudder steers a ship. Even in the midst of fierce winds, the rudder is powerful enough to steer the ship. In the same way, no matter the circumstances, the tongue is powerful enough to steer a person’s life.
The Bible is saying that your tongue is designed to steer your life, just like the rudder steers a ship. This is confirmed all over Scripture. God designed humans to be speaking spirits just like Him. We use our tongue in the same way God does- to set things in motion.
Then God said, “Let there be light”; and there was light. Genesis 1:3
Then God said, “Let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters, and let it divide the waters from the waters.” Genesis 1:6
Take a moment and read Genesis 1. God created the universe and everything in it with His words. When God created the earth, He used His words. He spoke and then He saw it. This is how God created everything! We can use our words in the same way.
What is the Power of the Tongue?
Do you want to change the direction your life is headed? Change the words you are speaking! God has given us the ability to steer our life in the direction we want it to go by using our tongues. Our words are very powerful.
Even when a massive ship is facing strong winds and massive waves, the direction the rudder is positioned holds more power over the ship than the winds.
In the same way, even when it seems as though all circumstances are against you, your tongue holds more power than the circumstances. You can position your words in the way you want to go, just like a rudder does. In fact, even the power of life and death are in the tongue.
Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruit. Proverbs 18:21
Your tongue can steer your life in the direction you want to go. As you begin to speak where you want to go, slowly but surely, you will get there. This is the way you are designed to function. This is how faith works. You believe it in your heart, and speak it out of your mouth.
And since we have the same spirit of faith, according to what is written, “I believed and therefore I spoke,” we also believe and therefore speak, 2 Corinthians 4:13
For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. Romans 10:10
But this principle can also work against you. If you are a person who says things like “I always get sick, nothing good ever happens to me, my children hate me, etc”, then you are likely seeing those things as reality in your life.
If you want to change your circumstances, change the words that are coming out of your mouth. If you want to see good days, learn to choose carefully the words you are speaking.
Who is the man who desires life, and loves many days, that he may see good? Keep your tongue from evil, and your lips from speaking deceit. Psalm 34: 12-13
How is the Tongue Like a Bit in a Horse’s Mouth?
The book of James also compares the tongue to a bit in a horse’s mouth.
For we all stumble in many things. If anyone does not stumble in word, he is a perfect man, able also to bridle the whole body. Indeed, we put bits in horses’ mouths that they may obey us, and we turn their whole body. James 3:2-3
This verse is saying that we can bridle our entire bodies with our tongue in the same way that a horse is bridled by the bit in their mouth. That’s how powerful words are! Just like when a bit is put in a horse’s mouth and controls the direction of the animal, so can the tongue control the entire body.
The horse can only go in the direction his head goes, so by putting a bit in a horse’s mouth, it allows the rider to control where the body of the animal goes. Our tongues are designed by God to work this way as well. Our bodies will go in the direction our words go.
Words have the power to affect our bodies, our emotions, and our actions. Our bodies are designed to respond to the words of our mouth. Jesus instructed us in Mark 11:23 to speak to our problems, to speak to our bodies, and to speak to circumstances. Everything responds to faith-filled words.
For assuredly, I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, ‘Be removed and be cast into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that those things he says will be done, he will have whatever he says. Mark 11:23
This verse says we are to speak to the mountain. The mountain symbolizes our problem or the thing we want removed. Mountains can be sicknesses, lack, confusion, or contrary circumstances.
Jesus modeled this for us. He spoke to bodies, spoke to sickness, spoke to trees, spoke to winds, spoke to demons, and even spoke to dead bodies!
Most people speak to God about their problems. This verse is saying we need to speak directly to our problems.
We should say things like “Sickness, leave my body in the Name of Jesus” and “Body, you be strong and healthy in Jesus Name.” We are supposed to use the authority Jesus gave us through our words and command the problem to be removed .
How is the Tongue Like a Fire?
The book of James also says that the tongue is like a little fire which can start a massive forest fire. It only takes a small match of fire to start a forest fire that can devastate hundreds of thousands of acres, destroying everything in its path.
Even so the tongue is a little member and boasts great things. See how great a forest a little fire kindles! And the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity. The tongue is so set among our members that it defiles the whole body, and sets on fire the course of nature; and it is set on fire by hell. James 3:5-6
This verse is warning us that just like a small fire, our tongues are a small member, but they have great power. The tongue is like a little match that can set a whole forest on fire.
Proverbs 18:21 tells us that death itself is in the power of the tongue. Before a person is born again and filled with the power of God to enable them to speak words of life, man’s tongue tends toward death.
Naturally, people’s words tend to be full of deceit and wickedness, and they defile our entire bodies. Just listen to an unbeliever talk for a while. Their mouth is usually full of negativity, death, slander, and cursing.
The devil has trained humanity to speak death constantly. How many times do you hear people say “I love them to death” or “that’ll be the death of me”?!
Our words cause physical problems in our bodies. When you talk, your body is listening. You can talk yourself sick. But, on the positive side, you can bridle your body with your tongue (James 3:2) and talk yourself well.
Our words also affect the course of nature. Our words have physical effects in the world around us. Everything in the universe is made out of words, and everything responds to words.
When we say “Nothing ever works out for me,” then our hearts start the process of bringing those words to pass. Your heart is like soil, it will bring forth whatever seeds are planted in it (See Mark 4, Matthew 13). When we say things like “If I wash my car, I know it’s going to rain,” we are actually saying we are cursed and our hearts begin to believe it and bring it to pass.
This verse in James also reveals that the negative words that set nature on fire are inspired by hell. Satan inspires our words of death just as God inspires our words of life. It is so important that we learn to control our tongues through the power of the Holy Spirit.
God gave dominion over all the animal creation to man (Genesis 1:28), and man has exercised that authority to subdue every kind of animal. But without the Holy Spirit, it is impossible for a human to tame his own tongue.
For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and creature of the sea, is tamed and has been tamed by mankind. But no man can tame the tongue. It is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison. James 3:7-8
Why Should Christians Control Their Tongue?
No one can conquer their words on their own. But through the power of the Holy Spirit, we can. Without being filled with the Holy Spirit, man’s tongues are evil and full of poison.
But no man can tame the tongue. It is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison. James 3:8
You will create an atmosphere of blessing or cursing with our words. They either keep you enveloped in the grace of God’s blessings, or they surround you with the curse. The angels of God listen to the Word of God spoken out of your mouth, to perform what you have spoken.
Bless the Lord, you His angels, who excel in strength, who do His word, heeding the voice of His word. Psalm 103:20
Jesus also taught on the power of our words. He said that people who believe that the words they say will come to pass, without doubting in their hearts, will have what they say (Mark 11:23).
People who don’t understand the power of words are constantly saying things that they don’t really mean, and they train their bodies not to believe or take their words seriously. Therefore, when it comes time to rebuke sickness or command healing, their bodies don’t respond the way they should.
Christians should always be seeking to control their tongue. With the help of the Holy Spirit, you can train your tongue to only speak words of truth and life. Then, you will begin to see your life go in the direction of your words.
Those who refuse to control their words are playing with fire and releasing destruction in their lives, just like the Bible warns us.
A fool’s mouth is his destruction, and his lips are the snare of his soul. Proverbs 18:7
You are snared by the words of your mouth; you are taken by the words of your mouth. Proverbs 6:2
But the mouth of the upright will deliver them. Proverbs 12:6
Start controlling your tongue by speaking the word of God out loud. This will train your heart and tongue to speak truth, even in contrary circumstances. Start to think about the words you speak, and ask the Holy Spirit to help you speak only words that line up with His truth. Your life will get better and better and you will begin to see the promises of God become a reality in your life!
Set a guard, O Lord, over my mouth; keep watch over the door of my lips. Psalm 141:3
I have put together several different lists of affirmations from the Word of God that you can start speaking. Click on the free resources tab to see them!