The fires of incitement

But I tell you that men will have to give account on the day of judgment for every careless word they have spoken. For by your words you will be acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned.” – Matthew 12:36-37

When we think of the judgment of God we rarely think of being judged for the words we speak. Rather, we think of avoiding judgment by our faith, or being judged by our works. But as you note, Yeshua makes it clear that we will be judged by our words. One of the real challenges in our day and age is to avoid speech that incites. Hear the Apostle James:

The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole person, sets the whole course of his life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell.

All in Israel and many throughout the world are aware of the recent spate of destructive fires in Israel. This fall has been particularly dry, and last week the winds raged. Fires sprung up throughout the country, devastating sections of Haifa, some suburbs of Jerusalem and in the West Bank. Various countries provided firefighting assistance to Israel, including Jordan, Turkey, Egypt and the Palestinian Authority. Investigations are ongoing about who and what started the fires. Some Palestinians have been arrested. At this point it appears some fires started by accident, some through negligence and some through arson. Yet, many of those interviewed, including leading figures in the government, pointed to Palestinian terrorism. I’ve read several Messianic Jewish and Christian reports from Israel assigning blame for the fires on terrorism. These kinds of quick trigger judgments lead to incitement and, quite frankly, are ungodly.

Yeshua said, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called the sons of God.” When we participate or entertain or promote inciting speech, we oppose peace. Rather, through our speech, we demonize the other. Throughout the ages this form of demonization ultimately led to catastrophes, aka, the Holocaust. Inciting speech inflames passions, distorts reality, perpetuate falsehoods and causes people to do things completely contrary to their character.

Take the recent US presidential election. So-called alt-right websites propagated extremist philosophy, enhanced by apparently Russian disinformation. In the past, everyone was aghast when it was discovered that Soviet disinformation attempted to influence US perspectives. Now, it seems if Russian disinformation reinforces one’s own distorted views of reality, then it’s okay.

The Apostle Paul claims that followers of Yeshua have the mind of Messiah. That means not only do we have access to the wisdom of God, but that our thoughts, ideas and analysis of evidence should be filtered through the lens of Yeshua’s teachings and example. Rather than parroting jargon and demonization of others, followers of Yeshua should critically examine everything spoken or written to determine its veracity first before passing it on. Even if something is true, if it unnecessarily demeans the character of someone else, we must be very careful about disseminating the information. This leads to lashon hara – or negative speech – the very thing Yeshua condemned in the Matthew text above.

Finally, with the proliferation of social media and the utilization of the internet to search for news, classical news reporting has suffered. While many applaud the collapse of well known news services because newspapers and news shows are perceived to have a liberal bias, the alternative is a world awash in falsehood. To publish a news story reputable news services seriously vet sources and material to ensure its accuracy. During the Watergate expose of the Nixon Administration in the early 1970’s, Washington Post editors blocked the publication of numerous stories written by the famous reporters Woodward and Bernstein until the information contained therein could be independently verified. They wanted to avoid the dissemination of false accusations and information. Today, unverified accusations and information flood the internet, and sadly many people adopt such views simply because they buttress their own biases and predilections. This can lead to the total breakdown of society.

Be prayerful about what you say, and please pray for the families who lost homes and property during the fires.