It’s believed that, on this day, after making some disparaging remarks about her brother, Miriam was stricken with leprosy and removed outside the camp for seven days:
“So the anger of the Lord was aroused against them, and He departed. And when the cloud departed from above the tabernacle, suddenly Miriam became leprous, as white as snow. Then Aaron turned toward Miriam, and there she was, a leper. (Numbers 12:9-10)
This particular event is the primary reason many rabbis believe that people who were stricken with leprosy (tzarat, in Hebrew) were guilty of lashon ha’ra, or an “evil tongue.” We are urged, therefore, to guard our tongues: to guard what we say about people and situations. Many times, we simply do not have all the facts about a situation and, even if we did, it doesn’t mean that we’re supposed to comment upon it, necessarily. The Bible says:
“Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruit.” (Proverbs 18:21)
There are a couple of things that are striking about this particular verse. The first is that Solomon felt the need to mention death first, as if to say that “death” – or the negative aspect of things – is the first thing people go to when they’re talking about situations and other people. This ought not be.
The second thing is that both death and life can be in the power of the tongue. This is interesting because the breath that gives life to words, whether used for curses or blessings comes from the same source – heaven. The breath that God breathed into us to give us life and that we use to utter words, either for life or death, comes from Him. That being the case, no wonder Scripture cautions us to be very careful about what we say and to diligently guard our tongue.
“With it we bless our God and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in the similitude of God. Out of the same mouth proceed blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not to be so. Does a spring send forth fresh water and bitter from the same opening?” (James 3:9-11)
Even though fresh and bitter waters shouldn’t come from the same fountain, unfortunately, we find that, most often, it does. For all of our lives, we have been told that if you can’t say something good about someone, don’t say anything at all. While there may be exceptions to this rule, there is a great deal of truth in it. We need to think before we speak and especially when we’re not certain that we have all the facts. Those words that we speak, even flippantly, have a lot of power. According to the Messiah, there’s coming a day that you and I will be judged according to every idle word spoken. Ouch.
Therefore, let us strive to govern our tongue and discipline ourselves to speak blessings instead of curses; to speak positively instead of negatively while discussing others. If we do this, the Father will be very pleased.