Sucking on an Adjective, Munching on a Verb

Open-MouthHave you ever had to eat your words?

I’m sure you have. Anyone who has ever used words has also had to eat them. This English expression–it’s tragarse las palabras in Spanish and it probably exists in other languages, as well–puts speech and food together in one thought. The Bible does the same thing on a couple of occasions.

The imagery is used in two ways. The more familiar one is in Paul’s letter to the Colossian believers (4.6), in which he writes,

Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.

Paul is clearly referring to speaking here. When other people receive our words, they should be tasty and well-seasoned, as it were. Not painfully spicy, not artificially sweet. Just right. That takes thought, consideration, love, courage and skill.

The text that intrigued me this morning is in Job 12.11:

Does not the ear test words as the palate tastes food?

Now, I’m a foodie. I don’t live to eat, but I don’t just eat to live, either. Our family has always enjoyed eating together and cooking together. New recipes are like new books to us–treasures to enjoy, cherish and share. Personally, I like nothing more than trying new dishes from exotic places–the more unusual, the better.

If you’re like me, when you taste something new you roll it around in your mouth for a while. You test the texture, let the flavours mix as they bombard your tongue and palate, and try to identify familiar features. A single mouthful of food may bring back a deluge of memories.

What Job says in this verse indicates that he is a good listener–and he’d better be, because he has a lot of listening yet to do in this drama! He talks about testing the spoken words of others just as one would try a new recipe or taste-test a dish about to be served to guests. He rolls words around in his head–savouring them, evaluating them, and seeking to understand them before he swallows them. Or spits them out.

I do this rather well with food. I’m terrible at it with words. I’m just not a good listener, and that affects my understanding, my attitudes and my relationships.

Someone–I don’t know who–once said something to the effect that “it is better to listen in order to understand than to listen in order to respond.”

Bingo. That’s me. Guilty as charged.



4 thoughts on “Sucking on an Adjective, Munching on a Verb”

  1. I think that can be said of most of the human race. I find myself listening, absorbing and processing “in order to” form a response. Many times I realize I didn’t listen quite hard enough. I realize sometimes when I get home that there are things I should have said that I didn’t and things I shouldn’t have said period.

    I like your analogy to food. “Food for thought” today. Thank you.

    Sent from my iPhone

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