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Look at the ships also, though they are so great and are driven by strong winds, are still directed by a very small rudder wherever the inclination of the pilot wills. (James 3:4)
Look at the ships also; here, James uses the second example to explain further his connecting the tongue with its need to be controlled. James illustrates this by using another massive object, a ship. Ships in the days of James could be enormous, well over 100ft (ca. 30 m) long. The ship that Paul would have taken in Acts 27:37 was big enough that it could have seated nearly 300 passengers. The fact that these vessels were big and powerful meant that it would also take a mighty wind to carry them along in the sea.
This example helps to emphasize the same point, but with something even more extraordinary in size. A ship is massive when we consider its steering mechanism, the rudder. As was the case within the Mosaic Law, having a matter be established with two witnesses, James develops his point with two illustrations. One can control his entire body if he could perfectly control his tongue. (2 Cor. 13:1; Deut. 17:6) A ship of even the most enormous size is at the mercy of high winds and waves while at sea.
Nevertheless, it is the tiny rudder, under the control of a man, which will determine whether the ship stays on course. Thus, within the stable grip of the human hands, this same rudder exercises control over the colossal ship. Even though mighty forces of sea and wind affect the vessels, the somewhat small rudder will counterbalance these tremendous forces.
Look at the ships also. This illustration is equally striking and unmistakable. A ship is a large object. It seems to be unmanageable by its vastness, and it is also impelled by driving storms. Yet it is easily managed by a small rudder, and he who has control of that has control of the ship itself. So with the tongue. It is a small member as compared with the body, in its size, not unlike the rudder as compared with the ship. Yet, the proper control of the tongue regarding its influence on the whole man is not unlike the control of the rudder in its power over the ship.
though they are so great. So great in themselves, and in comparison, with the rudder. Even such bulky and unwieldy objects are controlled by a very small thing.
and are driven by strong winds. Some winds are so strong that it would seem to leave the ship beyond control. It is probable that by the ‘fierce winds’ here as impelling the ship, the apostle meant to illustrate the power of the passions in compelling man. If the tongue is adequately controlled, even a man under impetuous passion would be restrained, as the ship driven by the winds is by the helm.
are still directed by a very small rudder. The ancient rudder or helm was made in the shape of an oar. This was very small compared with the vessel’s size—about as small as the tongue is as compared with the body.
wherever the inclination of the pilot wills. As the helmsman pleases. It is entirely under his control.
 Albert Barnes, Notes on the New Testament: James to Jude, ed. Robert Frew (London: Blackie & Son, 1884–1885), 56–57.