Wednesday, May 29, 2013

The Powerful Tongue


Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight,
O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.   — Psalm 19:14

The one who guards his mouth and tongue keeps himself out of trouble.   –– Proverbs 21:20


The Tongue

The tongue is a muscular hydrostat on the floors of the mouths of most vertebrates which manipulates food for mastication. That is wordy definition read aloud will exercise your tongue. What is a muscular hydrostat — that is even more a worse definition than that of the tongue. A muscular hydrostat is a structure found in animals that is used to manipulate items (like food) or to move its host around (in gastropods - slugs, snails etc. and the entire body of some worms). A musculat hydrostat is composed of mainly muscles with no skeletal support. Now here is an amazing thing about a muscular hydrostat: Muscles can only create force by contracting. Therefore there must be different sets of muscles working against each other to provide force or movement. One group of muscles will relax (lengthen) while another group will contract (shorten). The muscles in a muscular hydrostat are oriented in three different directions: parallel to the long axis, perpendicular to the long axis, and wrapped obliquely around the long axis.

The average human tongue is 4 inches in length. It is covered with tiny bumps called papillae which gives the tongue its rough texture. Now we know something about a tongue. But the tongue does much more. In the human the tongue is the primary source for taste. There are four common tastes, they are: sweet, sour, bitter, and salty. All parts of the tongue can detect these tastes. There are not specific areas of the tongue that are  sensitive to specific tastes as we once thought. There is another taste discovered that the tongue is sensitive to and that is called umami, not a lot of research has been done on this taste yet. Umami is sometimes described as an earthy taste.

It has often been said that the tongue is the strongest muscle in the human body, but it is not. The jaw muscle is stronger, primarily due to its leverage. The heart muscle is the strongest in terms of endurance. The tongue, however, is the only muscle in the body that is connected at only one end, making it unique in its power. This design allows the muscle to function to move food and to speak.

The tongue is also used for non verbal expressions. Sticking one's tongue out at someone is a gesture of rudeness or defiance in many countries. In Tibet sticking out ones tongue is considered a friendly greeting. This day and age tongue piercing and splitting is quite the fad in the United States. As many as 20% of the the young adults are estimated to have at least one piece of body art in their tongue.

Unfortunately I can tell you the words of my mouth are far too often not pleasing to the Lord.  I know what I should of said or shouldn't have said sometime after I have already said it.  The damage to someone else and to my reputation has already been done.  This definitely is not acceptable to God.  As a Christian, when I slander someone with my words, I have damaged my example as a child of Christ.  I am no longer a worthy ambassador of Christ.  Why do I still do it!  I could say that this is a hidden fault,  but that isn't true.  I know I need to take time and think about what I say before I say it.  That is part of the problem.  I  could pause, think, and not speak those words. Unfortunately I have come to enjoy the accolades of those who hear my stinging comments.   The laughs and high fives of the listeners are more important to me than the hurt I may have caused by my words.  It would be far better for me not to say what I said, but it would be even better not to have thought it. The real problem, however, is that one's speech generally originates with their heart.  Taming the tongue is a good start.  Still, a person's words are the windows to their heart.

Over the next several days we will look at the Biblical references to the tongue. We will be basically be referring to the use of the tongue in speech.  We shall see the tongue used both literally and metaphorically.  We will see all the trouble the tongue will cause.

The one who guards his mouth and tongue keeps himself out of trouble.  Proverbs 21:20  The words mouth and tongue are used as a figure of speech.  This is a figure of speech called a metonymy.  A metonymy is when a thing or concept is not called by its own name, but is called by something intimately associated with that thing or concept.  A businessman might be called a suit. A reporter is called the press. Hollywood might refer to the film industry in general. In this proverb mouth and tongue are metonymies of cause that signify what person says.  

The word for himself is נֶפֶשׁ nepes.  This word actually means breath, life force, soul, or a creature as a whole.  In some translations it is translated as soul and others as himself.  The word used here for trouble is צָרוֹתtsarot.  The word means: a bind, a difficulty, tribulation, tightness or affliction. Its use can refer to social or legal difficulties. Therefore this proverb is stating that: If a person guards or “keeps” his mouth, he will keep or preserve his soul. Conversely it is stating that one can bring many troubles upon himself by careless speech.


“The boneless tongue, so small and weak
Can crush and kill,” declared the Greek.
The Persian proverb wisely saith:
“A lengthy tongue, an early death.”
Sometimes it takes this form instead:
“Don’t let your tongue cut off your head.”
While Arab sages this impart:
“The tongue’s great storehouse is the heart.”
From Hebrew wit the maxim’s sprung:
“Though feet should slip, don’t let the tongue.”
A verse in Scripture crowns the whole:
“Who keeps the tongue doth keep his soul.”

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