Gossip and Murder

From “Sitting at the Feet of Rabbi Jesus” (p. 170):

Later rabbis also preached about sin by comparing small sins to greater ones.  Listen to what they say about gossip:

“To which is gossip more similar, robbery or murder?”

“Murder, because robbers can always give back what they’ve stolen, but gossips can never repair the damage they’ve done.”

To them, humiliating someone publicly was also like murder, because “the pain of humiliation is more bitter than death.”  The rabbis called such sin “whitening of the face” because when a person’s face pales with shame, it’s as if a pallor of death has overtaken him or her.  “Therefore,” they said, “one should rather fling himself into a fiery furnace than humiliate someone in public.”

Such comments remind us of Jesus’ striking exhortations to cut off your hand or pluck out your eye should they cause you to sin (also in the Sermon on the Mount, Matthew 5:29-30).  The rabbis knew the great damage that even tiny sins can do.  A little bit of gossip can ruin a reputation.  One sharp retort can ignite a war.  The goal of their exaggerations was to impress upon their listeners the dire consequences of sin.  Jesus, too, was urging his listeners to avoid evil at all costs.  His strong warnings express his anguish at the destruction that ensues when we do not resist temptation at the very beginning.

HT: Fishing the Abyss

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