The human tongue.
Such a small thing.
Under four inches in length, less than three ounces in weight. Yet this muscular organ, this mover and manipulator of our sustenance, is the gateway to physical survival. But is it just a physical gateway? I think not.
The tongue packs the most incredible spiritual and relational power too.
Power to lie, power to speak truth. Power to tear down, power to build up. Power to be harsh, power to be gentle. Power to define, name, proclaim, reject, accept.
Life and death are surely in the tongue.
The wisdom of Proverbs can tell us so. Consider these words from Solomon’s own mouth.
“The tongue has the power of life and death, and those who love it will eat its fruit” (Proverbs 18:21 NIV).
To eat its fruit? What does Solomon mean? Do we really understand how to love the tongue this much?
Aesop certainly understood.
His friends understood too, at least that’s how his popular fable goes.
When asked to host a dinner party that served the best meat money could buy, Aesop set out to provide his friends not steak. Not lamb. Not pork or fowl. This Greek fabulist’s guests found heaping plates of tongue cooked in various ways.
When asked about the odd, unappetizing choice, Aesop explained.
The tongue alone has power to bestow great wisdom. Through speeches and eulogies, philosophical treaties and sermons, the tongue can unite. It can edify, enlighten, instruct, impart. It can bring justice, establish marriages, make contracts, ascertain commerce. Nothing could be more positive or promising than the tongue.
Satisfied with Aesop’s speech, the dinner party then returned the next day for a taste of the worst meat money could buy. To their astonishment, guests once again found heaping plates of tongue.
The best AND worst? How can this be? They asked.
This small organ, this minute body part. It speaks treason and pioneers treachery. It pours forth betrayal, accusation, deception, fraud. It can ruin friendships, divide families, crumble cities, tear down empires. Nothing could be more destructive or devastating than the tongue.
With stomachs full, they all agreed.
So from that night on and every dinner thereafter, Aesop’s guests remembered. They remembered the power of the tongue. They understood the choice they had, the choice we all have to speak life or death, blessings or curses, joy or sorrow to those around us.
And you can too.
Just think on this proverb and choose to love the tongue’s power enough to speak forth life.
To tell your spouse something encouraging. To tell your children something reassuring. To speak to friends, coworkers, strangers something hope-filled, faith-filled, purposefully loving, slathered in grace.
And don’t forget to speak life to yourself too.
Life from God’s Word. If you do, your spiritual tongue will be chewing the choicest of fruit from the tree of life.
And what sweet fruit it is.
What life-giving words can you say to the people you encounter today? What are some affirming, faith-filled, grace-filled truths you can speak to yourself right now? What is God showing you through this proverb?