A Tree,
A Giraffe,
& the TongueTHE VILLAGERS of the Solomon Islands in the South Pacific have a rather unique way of knocking down a tree. Sometimes a tree is too large to be chopped down with an ax, so they knock it down by yelling at it! They creep up on it every day at dawn and then suddenly scream at the top of their lungs. At the end of about 30 days, the tree dies and falls down.

Rav Richard



     Yeah, I know what you are thinking: Poor superstitious natives. How primitive! Yell at trees to knock them down? The strange thing is that it actually works! The natives say it works because the hollering kills the spirit of the tree. I learned this strange little tidbit of information from Everything I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten by Robert Fulghum. (No, I haven't gone to the Solomon Islands to verify this item.) Much of this book is more mundane, but it is strewn with good homespun wisdom.

     In the western world, we have the advantages of modern technology. We don't yell at trees. However, I used to yell at my wife's Ford Pinto when we couldn't get it started. I used to yell at our parakeet when he got noisy, but discovered that he liked the noise of my yelling, and just squawked louder. Occasionally, I have yelled at my wife. We can yell at inanimate objects, and I guess that there is no harm in it, although it certainly isn't logical. I doubt that any good comes from it. However, the people in the Solomon Islands may have a point: When you yell at living things, you can kill the spirit in them. Sticks and stones may break your bones, but words can break your heart.

     One of the most impressive animals (to me, anyway) is the giraffe. A large giraffe has a huge black tongue, about 27 inches long. Giraffes can grow to about 19 feet tall. Of course, a large chunk of that height is its long neck. By the way, that long neck only has seven vertebrae, the same number that we humans have. Also, despite its long neck, the giraffe has only very rudimentary vocal cords, and can only produce a gentle lowing sound, like a very quiet cow. I presume that as long as he keeps himself silent, he won't get himself into much trouble. You may have heard the saying: It is better to keep your mouth shut and have people think you are a fool, than to open your mouth and remove all doubt.

     The Bible has much to say about the tongue. We humans are blessed with the gift of language. I can carry on a great conversation with my cat. Unfortunately, my cat has a limited vocabulary. Once he has said, "Meow," there isn't much more for him to say. He can't tell me much about his world ~ the joys of "mousing," or what his life was like before he came to live with us. He simply doesn't have the gift of language. I like to think he understands everything I say, but I really know he doesn't. (Perhaps Persian cats only understand Persian?)

     Jacob (James) 1:26 tells us, "If any man among you seems to be religious, and does not bridle his tongue, he deceives his own heart. This man's religion is vain (useless)." Jacob (Ya'akov) also wrote, "Behold, we put bits in the horses' mouths, that they may obey us, and we turn about their whole body. 4Behold also the ships, which, though they be great, and are driven by fierce winds, yet are turned about with a small rudder, wherever the pilot desires. 5Even so, the tongue is a little member, and boasts great things. Behold, how great a matter a little fire kindles!" (James [Jacob]) 3:2-5)

     It is truly amazing! We can control the direction of a horse with a small bit in its mouth. We can control the direction of a ship with a rudder. We humans can control so many things, but so often have almost no control over our own tongues!

     Our tongue is like the "rudder" for our whole body. If we are able to control our tongue, we can bring greater happiness to ourselves, as well as greater happiness to others. "And the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity: so is the tongue among our members, that it defiles the whole body, and sets on fire the course of nature; and it is set on fire by hell. 7For every kind of beasts, and of birds, and of serpents, and of things in the sea, are tamed, and have been tamed by mankind. 8But no one can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil and full of deadly poison." [1]

     It is amazing that so many kinds of animals have been tamed by man, and we humans often can't tame our own tongues! The sad thing is that words can slip out that can be hurtful to others, and once they are out, you can't put them back into your mouth. You regret the words. You can and should apologize whenever that happens, but even an apology might not heal the wounded spirit.

     The tongue can be used for insincere flattery (Psalm 5:9), lies and mischief (Ps. 10:7), and like the sword of an enemy (Ps. 57:4). For instance, it was simply words that began the Holocaust (HaShoah). The Nazis told their lies about the Jews often enough that eventually the people began to believe the lies. The result was the murder of 6 million Jews, as well as millions of others who were killed in that awful war. That's the bad news.

     However, the good news is that language is a gift of the Almighty. He intends for us to use this gift for good. We all have an inborn, God-given desire to communicate, just as I am doing right now with you. If we are denied the use of our tongues, we can communicate with our hands (such as sign language for the deaf), by writing, texting, or whatever other means we have at our disposal.

     The tongue can be used to destroy civilizations, but it can also be used to create civilizations. The tongue can be used to praise YHWH (Psalm 57:9) or to curse Him (Job 2:9). We have all been around people who use terms like "Jesus" and "God" as curse words. Personally, I prefer terms like Yeshua, in part because my Messiah and Savior was (and is) a Jew, not a Greek. But also, the term "Jesus" still sounds like a curse word to me, because I have usually heard it used as a curse word. And I have never heard the term "Yeshua" used as a curse word.

     The tongue can also be used to impart wisdom (Psalm 37:30), or it can be used to perpetuate  ignorance, prejudice, and lies. The tongue can be used as a tree of life (Proverbs 15:4) or for perversion (same verse). "Whoever guards his mouth and his tongue keeps his soul from troubles (Proverbs 21:23)."

     The tongue can be used to build up someone's spirit, or to break it. The taunts and heckling that children encounter can leave scars that damage their little spirits, often crushing them, and sometimes leaving scars that can last for a lifetime. We all love to coo over a beautiful baby or compliment a lovely child. But try also doing that for a child that isn't so lovely. She (or he) really needs it, and will surely appreciate it.

Where will you spend eternity?

Lastly, but by no means least, it is with your tongue that you can come into eternal life:

The word is near you, even in your mouth, and in your heart, that is, the word of faith, which we preach, 9that if you shall confess with your mouth the Lord Yeshua, and shall believe in your heart that God as raised Him from the dead, you shall be saved. 10For with the heart man believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto made unto salvation. 11For the scripture says, "Whosoever believes on Him shall not be ashamed." 12For there is no difference between the Jew and the Greek: for the same Lord over all is rich unto all that call upon Him. 13For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved."

 Romans 10:8-13

I can't think of a better way to use your tongue! You have the choice between Heaven and Hell. Which will you choose? If you just prayed to receive Yeshua as your Savior and Mashiach (Messiah), you have begun a spiritual journey that leads to life everlasting. We would like to hear from you. We would be happy to encourage you, and to help equip you in your new life in Yeshua.

[1] Jacob 3:6-8. (The Greek name for this  little book is Iakobos, which is a rough transliteration of the Hebrew Ya'akov, which is usually Anglicized to "Jacob." However, the King James translators chose the name of "James" for this book. Other English translators have done the same. In Spanish, he is called Santiago. Who were they trying to honor?)