Moses and the Evil Tongue

Shalom, at a recent meeting, we discussed Biblical leprosy and the connection to our speech. In the Rabbi’s Son’s commentary on Tazria/Metzora for Tuesday, he discusses the connection between outward physical and inward spiritual conditions. Referring to the encounter between Moses and the Holy One, he shows that tzara (leprosy) was a sign and witness to Israel – not to Pharaoh. It is a visible, physical manifestation of a spiritual reality. What spiritual reality? The very real effect our speech has on each other.

The commentary discusses “l’shon hara” – “the evil tongue”, otherwise known as gossip or slander. Hebraically, it means speech that involves dissecting another person, looking only at one aspect of his or her life without seeing and taking into account the whole picture.

moses_and_the_burning_bushThe example is Exodus 3:1 – 4:7. In this encounter, Moses responds to God’s declaration that He will be with him and that Moses is to lead His people out of Egypt. Moses says “Who am I, that I should go to Pharaoh and bring B’nei Israel out of Egypt?” In effect, Moses challenges the Holy One’s wisdom and argues with His plan. In the conversation, Moses continues to argue and insinuates that the people of Israel are so spiritually dead that they do not even remember the name of their God. This level of l’shon hara is saying something that may be true, but negative, about someone. Next, Moses escalates to criticizing other’s spiritual lives when he does not have all the facts.

It is very easy for us to slide into saying or listening to l’shon hara. Evil speech may be couched as a testimony, a prayer request or just complaining about someone. As children of the King, we are called to a higher standard. The word of our King says:

James 3:9-11 (NIV) With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings, who have been made in God’s likeness. Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this should not be. Can both fresh water and salt water flow from the same spring?

Matthew 7:2-3 (HCSB) For with the judgment you use, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. Why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye but don’t notice the log in your own eye?

Let us measure very carefully the words we use concerning other people the Holy One has created. We are to build each other up and bless those that curse us.

If anyone thinks himself to be religious, and yet does not bridle his tongue but deceives his own heart, this man’s religion is worthless. James 1:26 (NASB)

In that regard, here are some guidelines for giving a testimony or making a prayer request, based on material from the Institute of Basic Life Principles.

The Basic Outline

  1. Define the problem. People relate to problems. In fact, sharing problems can promote healing. We are told, “Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed” (James 5:16). Problems should be stated in general terms rather than using specific details that may have happened only to you. For instance, if you had a disagreement with your parents, do not focus on the details of the disagreement; rather, state the problem in a more general way, such as: “For many years I had reoccurring conflicts with my parents.” Most people will be able to readily identify with this problem.
  2. Describe your “solution” to the problem. Explain how you tried to solve the problem in your own way, only to make it worse. For example, you could say, “I tried to reason with my parents, but it always ended up in heated arguments that caused further separation.”
  3. Explain God’s answer to the problem. What Biblical principles or command did you apply in order to resolve the problem? “I finally realized that I was not honoring my father and mother, and they were reacting to my spirit of pride and disrespect. I asked them to forgive me for these wrong attitudes and for my resistance to their position in my life.”
  4. Report the results. Describe how God’s solution has brought new resolution to the problem. “When I humbled myself, my parents also asked me to forgive them for their actions, and we now are able to enjoy open communication with each other.”

Take comfort in the fact that others can pray effectively for you without knowing all of the specific details of your situation of your confidential prayer request.

God knows and cares about each one of us individually and intimately and therefore total knowledge of any problem or situation is not necessary for someone else to effectively pray about it.   Even when we pray for ourselves (or others) using all of the details we personally know, we still don’t know everything to ask or say.  The Bible tells us that the Holy Spirit is able to make up for our lack of information.  The Holy Spirit speaks to God’s heart on a matter in a way that goes beyond the all known facts.   Romans 8:26-27 says, “We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express.  And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God’s will.”  (NIV)

The Bible also says that God honors secret and private acts of prayer. “But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen.  Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.” (Matthew 6:6  NIV)

Avoid certain dangers.

  • Do not describe details of sinful acts.
  • Do not use words that may stir up lustful thoughts.
  • Do not repeat vulgar expressions.
  • Do not refer to other people without their approval.
  • Do not put others in a bad light.
  • Do not make a joke of sin.
  • Do not imitate mental, emotional, or physical handicaps.
  • Do not speak or write too soon after a failure.

Let us make an effort to spend more time praising the Holy One, studying His word and meeting Messiah through engaging in good works than we spend thinking about or talking about our problems.

To sum up, let all of you be like-minded, sympathetic, loving as brothers, tenderhearted, humble-minded, not returning evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary blessing, knowing that you were called to this, in order to inherit a blessing. For “He who wishes to love life and see good days, let him keep his tongue from evil, and his lips from speaking deceit, let him turn away from evil and do good, let him seek peace and pursue it. (I Peter 3:8-11 ISR98)

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