This message emphasizes to kids the importance of using speech wisely. Children experience the impact that words can have, but they don’t always stop to think before they speak or consider how their words will impact others. This message reminds students that the things we say can be a helpful tool or a harmful weapon. Words do have lasting effects for good or for bad. We want to encourage our young people to use their mouths to glorify God and to lift up those around them.
Law/Gospel Theme: In this passage we focus on how our speech can serve dual purposes, to potentially help or harm. We recognize that sometimes we do make mistakes and say things we should not. It’s important to remember at these times that we can use our speech to ask for forgiveness, both from other people and from God. We know that He will always grant grace and give us the strength and wisdom to use our words well.
Optional Materials: items that could be tools, but also potentially dangerous (for example, lighter, razor, knife, hammer, etc.).
Bible Passage: James 3:1-12
Message Nore: As with most messages, the details of how you choose to communicate this are adaptable and should cater to timing as well as to your audience and student needs. Use your judgment and ideas to best serve students.
More Teaching Ideas:
- Watch the video example of this children’s sermon lesson or related Bible craft demonstration
- Compare a full James 3:1-12 Sunday School Lesson
- Compare an alternate kids Bible lesson on Taming the Tongue
- Download our Book of James coloring page
Tame that Tongue (James 3:1-12) Children’s Sermon
Greet children, carrying (in hand or bagged) several items that could be tools or potentially cause harm:
Hello, children of God!
Are there any items in your house that you are not allowed to touch or use? I have a few items here that I brought from my house. I use these now, but I’m always very careful about how I use them and how I put them away. When I was younger, I wasn’t even allowed to touch these things. (Take out whatever items you have, and describe them one by one.)
So here I have a lighter. Now, this is a helpful tool if I want to light a fire in the fireplace, or if I have candles to light or something. However, if I used it for the wrong purpose, I might start a fire that could do damage, or I could burn myself. That’s why it’s never good to play with matches or lighters…now, I also have a very sharp knife right here. If I want to cut a watermelon or a loaf of bread or a turkey (side note: obviously the same knife would not be used for all of those foods…just describe whatever knife you have) this knife would be great. On the other hand, if I don’t use this carefully, I could cut myself or someone else, which might even lead to a hospital visit. Over here, I have a razor. You might see these in your parents’ bathroom, for when they need to shave. But it’s not something that a kid should play with, because there are sharp blades on here that could hurt you!
So you can see through just a few examples that there are a lot of things we have that can be used either as helpful tools or potentially dangerous weapons. Did you know that you have something you carry around all the time that works the same way?? There is a part of YOU which can be used to help or to hurt. Do you have any idea what it might be? (Stick out your tongue.) It’s THIS! Your tongue! The Bible talks about how powerful and even dangerous the tongue can be. The book of James says that the tongue is like a fire, and can be full of poison! Now, you might be wondering how our tongues can have such potential. After all, what do we use tongues for besides tasting and eating food? Well, our tongues are essential for something else: talking! Speech is a remarkable and unique gift that God gives us, but He wants us to use that gift carefully. The things we say can actually have a huge impact on people.
For instance, when we say things that are not true, or that are not kind, it can hurt someone’s feelings. There’s a saying “sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me”…It’s not entirely true. Words can definitely hurt deeply. We can also misuse speech when we speak disrespectfully. Maybe you talk back to a parent or a teacher, or fight with someone and say something rude on purpose. You might even use inappropriate language or say a bad word. Or you might gossip and say something about someone else…there are a lot of ways that we might worry, anger, or hurt someone with our words.
On the other hand, there are a lot of positive things we can do with our words, as well! Can you think of any? (Allow responses.) We can say things that are kind and encouraging to compliment others. We can use speech to teach people things. We can cheer someone on or support them. And we can use our words to praise and glorify God! We worship Him with music, and also through prayer. God always wants us to come to Him in prayer and will always grant us grace when we make mistakes.
It’s important to stop and think before we speak. We need to think about the words we use and consider whether they will be helpful or harmful. If we don’t have kind words to use, it might be best to not say anything. Think about the way you want others to speak to you, and address them in the same way. Avoid speaking out in anger towards someone. Sometimes we mess up. We might say something we shouldn’t, and we usually can’t just “take it back”. However, we can also use our words to confess, apologize, and ask for forgiveness. We can do this with people we hurt, and we can do it with God, who will always forgive us and have mercy on us. How wonderful to know that we can ask God for wisdom and guidance as we use our words!
Why don’t we say a prayer to God right now?
Children’s Prayer Moment:
(Have kids repeat each line)
Thank you for the gift of speech
Help us to use our words well and wisely.
May we glorify you with our mouths
And encourage and help others
Thank you for your love
We love you, God!
In Jesus name, Amen!
Bible Verses/story to Reference: James 3:1-12
Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness. 2 For we all stumble in many ways. And if anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect man, able also to bridle his whole body. 3 If we put bits into the mouths of horses so that they obey us, we guide their whole bodies as well. 4 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. 5 So also the tongue is a small member, yet it boasts of great things.
How great a forest is set ablaze by such a small fire! 6 And the tongue is a fire, a world of unrighteousness. The tongue is set among our members, staining the whole body, setting on fire the entire course of life, and set on fire by hell. 7 For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and sea creature, can be tamed and has been tamed by mankind, 8 but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. 9 With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God. 10 From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things ought not to be so. 11 Does a spring pour forth from the same opening both fresh and salt water? 12 Can a fig tree, my brothers, bear olives, or a grapevine produce figs? Neither can a salt pond yield fresh water. –James 3:1-12