Revelations from the Word

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Jesus and the Lashan hara

by Jean-Louis Coraboeuf

"When He had called the multitude to Himself, He said to them, Hear and understand: Not what goes into the mouth defiles a man; but what comes out of the mouth, this defiles a man... But those things which proceed out of the mouth come from the heart, and they defile a man. For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies. These are the things which defile a man, but to eat with unwashed hands does not defile a man" (Matthew 15:10-11,18-22).

King David wrote a Psalm, "I will walk in the integrity of my heart, in the midst of my household … He who slanders [לשן, lashan] his neighbour in secret, I will reduce him to silence" (Psalm 101:2,5). Moving from the root 'lashan' the Jewish rabbis developed the expression לשון הרע [lashon hara], the 'evil tongue' or sin of gossip. This sin brings together slander, false witness, cursing and, in a general way, any word capable of causing hurt to others, including those pronounced in a non-deliberate fashion. In this psalm, King David symbolizes the figure of Jesus who walks in the midst of His Household, the Church.

In the face of the Pharisees and Scribes, Jesus reminded them that it was the evil words pronounced by the lips, which defiled a man and not the fact of eating without washing one's hands. In fact the lips reveal what is in the heart. The lashon hara is the sin of the tongue, it affects at least three people: the one who speaks, the one who listens and the one who is the target of these comments. When we are witnesses of lashon hara we have the responsibility of reproving the person, "If your brother has sinned, go and reprove him privately between you and him" (Matthew 18:15). John the apostle of love, wrote about Diotrephe, "if I go, I shall recall the acts he commits, by holding [phluaréo] evil thoughts against us" (3 John 1:10). The Greek word phluaréo means to gossip, to speak wrongly against. The apostle James himself explains how difficult it is to tame the tongue of man, for by it comes forth blessing as well as cursing (James 3).

In the same way that David did not tolerate slander in his royal household and silenced it, so also Jesus doesn't tolerate this sin of gossip in His Church. As members of the Household of God, we are invited to silence every evil word that grieves the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 4:29-32). And as servants of God, we have the authority in the Name of Jesus to reduce to nothing every evil word pronounced against us, "Every weapon forged against you will be of no avail; and every tongue [לשון] which raises itself up in judgement against you, you will condemn. Such is the inheritance of the servants of the Lord, such is the salvation which will come to them from Me, says the Lord" (Isaiah 54:17).