James 3:4

4 Or take ships as an example. Although they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are steered by a very small rudder wherever the pilot wants to go.

Read James 3:4 Using Other Translations

Behold also the ships, which though they be so great, and are driven of fierce winds, yet are they turned about with a very small helm, whithersoever the governor listeth.
Look at the ships also: though they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are guided by a very small rudder wherever the will of the pilot directs.
And a small rudder makes a huge ship turn wherever the pilot chooses to go, even though the winds are strong.

What does James 3:4 mean?

John Gill's Exposition of the Bible
James 3:4

Behold also the ships, which though they be so great
Of so large a bulk, of such a prodigious size, and are such unwieldy vessels:

and are driven of fierce winds;
with great vehemence, rapidity, and swiftness:

yet are they turned about with a very small helm, whithersoever the
governor listeth;
the helm, or tiller of a ship, is a beam or piece of timber fastened into the rudder, and so coming forward into the steerage, where he that stands at helm steers the ship F5, who is here called the governor; or "he that directs", as the word may be rendered; that is, that steers; the word for "helm" is translated rudder in ( Acts 27:40 ) , and the helm or tiller is sometimes, though improperly, called the rudder itself F6; and this is very small, in comparison of the bulk of the ship that is guided by it F7. Aristotle calls it (phdalion mikron) , "a small helm", as the apostle here does, and accounts for it how large ships should be moved and steered by it. And so, though the tongue is to the rest of the body as a small helm to a large ship, yet, like that, it has great influence over the whole body, to check it when it is carrying away with the force of its appetites and passions; and so churches, societies, and bodies of Christians, which are large and numerous, and are like ships upon the ocean, tossed to and fro with tempests, driven by Satan's temptations and the world's persecution, and ready to be carried away with the wind of false doctrine, yet are influenced and directed aright by those that are at the helm, the faithful ministers of the word, who say to them, this is the way, walk in it.


FOOTNOTES:

F5 Chambers's Cyclopedia, in the word "Helm".
F6 lb. in the word "Rudder".
F7 Quaest. Mechanic. c. 5.
California - Do Not Sell My Personal Information  California - CCPA Notice