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This blog site will feature essays, columns and musings that deal with the intersection of Christianity and journalism and the American Songbook.

Christian journalist: Speak no evil and do no evil (Zechariah 8:16-17)

Zechariah 8:16-17. “’These are the things you are to do: Speak the truth to each other, and render true and sound judgment in your courts; do not plot evil against your neighbor, and do not love to swear falsely. I hate all this,’ declares the LORD.”

Exegesis and Application

Zechariah gives us our social obligations:
1) Speak the truth to each other
2) Render true and sound judgment
3) Do not plot evil against our neighbor
4) Do not swear falsely

The last sentence of vs. 15 is, “Do not be afraid.” Lies cause fear. If Christians are diligent in practicing truth in their relationships, peace and concord in the neighborhood will continue to rear its beautiful head. Key words in this passage are “each other” and “neighbor,” “truth,” “true and sound,” and “falsely.” Note that there are two positive exhortations (vs. 16) and two balancing negative injunctions. (vs. 17) The Hebrew words for “each other” and “neighbor” show the community aspect of truth-telling. If falsehood is permitted to stand by our failure to report or if we deliberately twist the truth to our community, human society will break down and the blessings of human culture will be lost. (Proverbs 24:11-2)

The Hebrew word for “truth” is “emeth” meaning “to keep one’s promises,” as in “firmness and constancy in behavior” and “fidelity in comportment.”

The Hebrew word for “true and sound judgment” is “mishpat shalom.” “mishpat” is used about 400 times with about 13 different meanings in the Old Testament. “shalom” is used hundreds of times with hundreds of uses in the Old Testament, usually translated “peace,” “well-being,” “prosperity,” “completeness” or “safety.” “mishpat shalom” usually has the legal translation “ judgment or truth and peace,” “judgment of justice.” But it can have the non-legal translation of “manner or custom of peace, justice, safety or wholeness.” In our passage, “mishpat shalom” means act in such a way to promote peace and establish concord in the community.

Finally, the Hebrew for swear “falsely” is “sheqer” which means “to cheat, lie, deceive, act falsely, be untrue, and to be duplicitous.” It is used in Job 13:4, “you smear me with lies,” or “daubers of truth.” The term is used by Jeremiah to deceitfully pronounce peace when there is no peace. (8:10b-11)

The reason Christian journalists must tell the truth is because the God of truth will use the truth in any given situation to eventually bless our neighbor. It is part of the way God created human society – truth always leads to blessing. (John 8:32) Christian journalists must never be afraid of reporting the truth of a given situation, even when the truth is ugly and unpleasant (which it is many times), because ultimately, God will use the reported truth to work His good and perfect will for our neighbor. David Clyde Jones notes that the truth is “essential to human community” because “deceit is a form of coercive assault” that robs all humans of “freedom and dignity.” (cf, Eph. 4:25)

It is our obligation, our sacred duty as Christians to always strive to write true statements which are verified by credible sources. (Deut. 19:15; Matt. 18:16) The truth-telling role of the journalist who is a Christian is the sixth sense – the illumination of the Holy Spirit to guide the journalistic process. (Luke 12:11-12; Acts 16:6-7; et. al.)

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