Chapel Lesson – Taming Your Tongue

Last week I was invited to give a brief lesson or sermon my school’s weekly chapel.  Our usual chaplain was due to be out that day, so the associate head of school asked me to deliver a message.

Earlier in the academic year I gave a short talk on listening intently and graciously, so I thought that a good complement would be to talk about the power and danger of our words—our fiery tongues!

I blog daily, and I know I’ve let my waggling tongue (in the form of a digital pen) get me into hot water.  It’s never a good feeling, and I’ve certainly written—and said!—things I regret.

For hot-blooded teens, it’s even more of a problem.  Rather than condescend to them with another jeremiad about “bullying”—such an insipid word—I decided to go directly to The Source

With that, here is my brief chapel lesson from Thursday, 2 February 2023, “Taming Your Tongue”:

James 3:1-12 (NIV)

Not many of you should become teachers, my fellow believers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly. We all stumble in many ways. Anyone who is never at fault in what they say is perfect, able to keep their whole body in check.

When we put bits into the mouths of horses to make them obey us, we can turn the whole animal. 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. Likewise, the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark. The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole body, sets the whole course of one’s life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell.

All kinds of animals, birds, reptiles and sea creatures are being tamed and have been tamed by mankind, but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison.

With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings, who have been made in God’s likeness. 10 Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this should not be. 11 Can both fresh water and salt water flow from the same spring? 12 My brothers and sisters, can a fig tree bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Neither can a salt spring produce fresh water.


How many of you have ever said something that you regret?  We all, at one time or another, have said something cruel or spiteful.  Maybe we did not even mean the words.  Regardless, they probably stung the person on the receiving end.

And how many of you have ever had something cruel or untrue said about you?  It’s not a good feeling, is it?

James tells us that the tongue is “a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body.”  This small part of our body can do major damage; James even writes that the tongue “sets the whole course of one’s life on fire.”  Even a small child can guide a large horse with a bit; a little rudder steers a massive ship.  So our tongues steer the course of our lives.

That’s a lot of power in a small package!  How do we use our tongues?  Do we use them to tear others down, or to lift them up?

James writes that with “the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings,” people who are made in the Image of God.  Are we doing the same—praising God in one breath, while tongue-lashing our friends and family?

Unlike the great beasts of the Earth, the tongue is untamable.  But we can make an effort to use it to lift up one another, to wield this tiny weapon to support and inspire our friends and family.

Mind your words.  Be thoughtful about what you say—and when you say it.  As Proverbs 16:24 states, “Pleasant words are like a honeycomb, sweetness to the soul and health to the bones.”

The wrong word can mark someone for life.  The right word can do the same.  Choose wisely.


4 thoughts on “Chapel Lesson – Taming Your Tongue

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s