The Eastern Mind #7 — Nouns and Verbs

As we have mentioned already in this series, western thought is prepositional and philosophical. It is rooted in abstract concepts and ideas rather than concrete realities like the eastern thought process. As a consequence of this, the western languages are built upon ideas, concepts, and things — nouns. This may sound trite, but it isn’t. What this leads to is the reality that when we communicate, we communicate ideas and intent, not necessarily action.

As westerners listen to a lecture, talk, lesson, or sermon, we can absolutely agree with everything stated, but because we understand it conceptually, not concretely, we have no real need to act on what we agree to. Because our language is built on abstract concepts and ideas, we disconnect desire and action, or what we want to do and what we actually do.

This shows up in all kinds of ways in our lives. We “want” to lose weight, but we rarely act on it. We want to change jobs or go back to school or any number of other things, but we do not actually move forward on any of it.

The eastern world is different. Hebrew, for example, is a language built around verbs rather than nouns. The thrust of the story, the lesson, the sermon, is in the action taken, not the concept or idea that drove the action. This changes a lot about how we live our lives and what we say about what we want to do and what we don’t want to do.

When I was learning Hebrew, I was learning from a self-taught program led by an Israeli national. She was great and very helpful. However, I struggled to turn my assignments in. I had the best intentions, but I had terrible follow through.

She asked me one day if I wanted to learn Hebrew. I said I absolutely wanted to learn Hebrew. She said something to me that I will never forget: “Well, from a Hebrew perspective, you do not want to learn Hebrew.” Simple and profound. All the good intentions in the world mean nothing without action to follow it up. This is the worldview of those who wrote the Bible.

Jesus said, “If you love me, you will obey me.” On the surface it sounds like works righteousness, but think about it. From the perspective of a Jew, that is absolutely how Jesus should have said it. Beyond the truth of this statement, the worldview is totally evident. To a Hebrew, you don’t love God if you don’t do what He says. Love for them isn’t a concept or idea or abstract feeling. It is a verb. It is an action. It is faithfulness to the call we have been given. This is why the scripture says that if we claim to be in Christ, we must walk as Jesus walked. Some translations will render it “live as Jesus lived.” Walk implies action, and in the Jewish mind there is no difference. Your walk is your life, no matter the words you speak.

So, may you live out your life. May you be known by how you walk the path. May your actions always speak louder than your words. And may you close the gap between feelings and actions.