For Ministry Resources Youth Series : James

Lesson 02: James 02/04: Taming Your Tongue

Lesson 02

Has a heated conversation ever made you wish you had a time machine? Sometimes, the moment words spill out of our mouths, we wish we could take them back. Our words have the power to wound the people we love most. Conversations have the power to change the direction of a relationship. How many times have you said something you regret? A dozen? A thousand? It’s time to tame our tongues.

Large Group

Large Group Instructions


Download the attached script to bring with you to the podium.

  • Tell a story about a time when you said something you regretted.

For me, I would discuss my childhood habit of lying (quite frequently.)

My grandmother collected clown statues. There were dozens of them all over her house — happy clowns, sad clowns, little clowns, big clowns, and creepy clowns (all of them). One day, I was goofing around with one of her figurines and I broke it. I panicked, then set an elaborate plan into motion. I was going to blame my brother. (Okay, it wasn’t that elaborate.) 

I ran to my mother and spun the most ridiculous story you could ever imagine. I created a villain-like scenario where my brother shattered the beloved clown while I cried and begged him to stop. 

Mom didn’t buy my tall tale. As a matter of fact — she was with my brother for most of the day. I was caught in my lie. I didn’t just get punished for breaking the statue. I was also punished for lying and trying to pin it on my brother.


We are in a series all about integrity, which we have defined as “doing the right thing even when no one is watching.”

In a little book of New Testament proverbs, James gives us the keys to unlocking a life of integrity.

Tonight, we are going to explore the most intense topic he tackles.

The Apostle James uses his most intense imagery to depict an unexpected topic.

He discusses the "fires of hell" not in the context of wrath, murder, cheating, blasphemy, or dipping pizza in ranch.

This extreme language is used to discuss one of the smallest parts of your body — your tongue.

Look at anyone’s downward spirals in life. If you trace back the biggest challenges in life, you will likely see that speech contributed the downward spiral.

You may have lied.

You may have exaggerated.

You may have yelled at someone.

You may have broken a promise.

You said something that you never meant to say — and you just wish you could take it back. That stings, right?

Our words can make us wish we had a time machine.

Sometimes, the moment words spill out of our mouths, we wish we could take them back.

Our words have the power to wound the people we love most.

Conversations have the power to change the direction of a relationship.

How many times have you said something you regret?

A dozen? A thousand? In Chapter three of James, the Apostle gives his friends another tip to thrive at life — get control of the words you say.

It's time to tame our tongues.

When you tame your tongue, you can better control your life.

What does this have to do with integrity?

Integrity is exposed and reputations are ruined by the words we say. More often than not, your words reveal your true colors.

Let’s explore what James had to say about that.


The tongue is tiny, but its impact is enormous.

Words declare wars. Words spread love. Words break hearts.

When discussing the significance of our words, James employs three practical metaphors to illustrate their power.

James leverages the metaphor of a bit within a horse’s mouth.

Using a tiny piece of metal, riders can control 1,300 pound steeds.

A bit is merely the size of your hand, but it moves one of the most muscular mammals on earth with relative ease.

This metaphor means that small things can make big impacts. Your tongue, while small, has the power to make massive changes. It’s one of your smallest organs, but it can have the strongest impact on your life.

Small words or phrases can shatter your life. Disappointment

I hate you

A profane outburst

These little phrases were created by one of the littlest organs in your body, but their impact is paramount.

James continues by comparing the tongue to a rudder on a ship.

It's hidden beneath the surface, but it creates major outward outcomes.

A cargo-ship the size of four football fields is directed by a rudder the size of a jet ski.

Your words can change your direction.

Like a rudder on a ship, your tongue is small but it steers your path in life.

A single phrase can destroy a relationship.

A rant can revoke a scholarship.

A lie can shatter trust.

It starts small, but it grows into a blaze that engulfs everything in flames.

A rumor is a spark, but a ruined reputation is the wildfire.

An angry rant on Twitter is a spark, but your revoked scholarship is a massive inferno.

A little lie is a spark, but it may burn your trustworthiness to the ground.


An uncontrolled tongue is dangerous to your relationships.

From malicious lies to anger-fueled arguments, your words make a massive impact.

When you use words of criticism, sarcasm, gossip, or discouragement, your words become weapons.

They strike people with brutal force and leave them hurting. Sometimes people are left healing from hurtful words years after the attack.

We must find a better way to live. James doesn’t leave us high and dry — he gives us the antidote to the curse of dangerous conversations.

When you tame your tongue, you can take control of your life.

We can find that in James chapter one.

  • ILLUSTRATION: Tell a story about a time when words hurt you.

Here is an example from my life:

When I was in the 7th grade, my math teacher went on a rampage about how the entire class was going to end up homeless and helpless. She screamed and screamed until coming to the conclusion, “There is no point in teaching, because I can’t fix stupid.” Ouch, Mrs. Doe.

What made her come to this conclusion? We had all failed a pop quiz on hyperbolas. Here is an important piece of context — our class was the remedial class. It was just a small handful of us who were truly struggling in math.

After she said that, I felt stupid. She confirmed my fears. Math wasn’t for me, so I just checked out.

I always wonder what could have happened if I had more encouraging voices in my life during this phase.

Maybe I wouldn’t have buried myself in literature and theater.

Maybe I would have actually learned how to use a graphing calculator.

It’s even possible I could have become a civil engineer. Who knows?

However, the direction of my life was shifted due to something harshly shared by a teacher in a turtleneck.

In the first chapter of James, we receive three valuable tips to help us tame our tongues.

Do you want to use wiser words?

Speak less and listen more. 

When you listen with intention, you will begin to understand where the other person is coming from.

When you feel conflict arise, focus on hearing the other person. Ask yourself, "What are they feeling?"

When you understand what someone is feeling, you understand what you need to say.

(Sometimes, more importantly, how you need to say it.)

No, we don't mean literally talk slower.

(While that certainly doesn't hurt during a tense talk.)

We must slow down to think before we speak or become angry.

Don't be mean.

I know this sounds like advice you'd give to a child at recess, but it's true. When we slow down before we speak, we tend to put down our defenses.

Whether you're speaking down to someone, insulting someone, critiquing someone, or bringing up their past, strive to replace meanness with kindness.

Don't manipulate.

We are all guilty of manipulation.

Simply put, this is when you weaponize your words to get your way. People manipulate by lying, screaming, gaslighting, flattering, or leveraging the silent treatment.

If you see manipulation playing out in your own life, break free. There is a better way to live. Use your words to heal, not harm.

Don't make excuses.

When you hurt someone, apologize.

Even if what you said was true. Even if what you said was out of emotion. Even if you had a tough day that put you on edge.

Those are all excuses. Fight the urge to defend yourself. the moment you make a mistake, own it so you can move forward.

So many of the world's problems can be cured by kindness.

The same is true in your personal life. Being mean may feel good for a moment, but that will quickly change. Saving a relationship is much more important than winning an argument.

Use your words to build up, not beat down.


When you feel the temptation to weaponize your words, run your thoughts through this filter that I borrowed from an elementary school bulletin board.

THINK before you SPEAK.

Hold your tongue until your words answer "yes" to all five of the following questions:

T - is it True? H - is it Helpful? I - is it Inspiring? N - is it Necessary? K - is it Kind?

After you’ve run your words through this filter, you are free to speak them. Just be sure to share with kindness and empathy.

Your speech should point people back to God. Your words should inspire and encourage those around you.

You can learn to take control of your language by applying these filters we discussed tonight.

Ultimately, our words reveal our integrity. As we commit to a journey of integrity, we must take a long, hard look at the words we say, and the words we type.

Your integrity develops when we follow the practical advice of James.

Be quick to listen.

Slow to speak.

Slow to become angry.

These three principles act like keys as we unlock a life of integrity.

THINK before you speak.

Ensure you are glorifying God and edifying others.

Your words can help, heal, hurt, or harm. Be sure to use them wisely.

Small Group

Small Group Instructions

  • TALK IT OUT  Go through these questions with your circle. Be honest. Be open. Talk through the tough stuff.

Icebreaker: Introduce yourself and share this week’s highs and lows (the best part of your week and the lowest part of your week).

Q1: Think of someone you know who has great integrity. How do they usually speak?

Q2: How can our words honor God and build our integrity?

Q3: Why do you think James talks about our words in such a powerful way?

Q4: Have you ever said something to somebody that you regret? If you had slowed down to listen and respond out of kindness instead of anger, how might that conversation have gone differently?

Q5: List 3-5 God-honoring ways you’d like to use your words this week. Think specifically about relationships that may be in need of helpful conversations.

Application: What can you do this week to focus on filtering your words like James suggests?

  • This reading plan includes:

    Proverbs 8 Proverbs 9 Proverbs 10 Proverbs 11 Proverbs 12 Proverbs 13 Proverbs 14

    Do the following with each passage:

    ASK– God to connect with you here. In prayer, start by slowing down and inviting God to be present. Begin with focus and openness to see what God has for you today.

    READ– the selected section of Scripture slowly. Take note of the words and phrases that intrigue you, reading them a second time if necessary.

    REFLECT– on what grabs you. How does this passage personally relate to your own life and experiences?

    RESPOND– to the Scripture. Speak directly to God about what’s on your mind and heart. Look for ways to live out what you’ve uncovered.

About For Ministry Resources Youth Series

FMR develops a monthly youth ministry curriculum that is free to all local churches. Each monthly release includes a sermon series, small group series, Bible devotional, and supporting graphics packs that are original, practical, and ready to use.