His Eye is on the Sparrow

“Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.”
(Matthew 6:25-34 ESV)

For years, leaders of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints have counseled members to have a year’s supply of food and other essentials stored for emergency preparedness and independence. Joseph Smith, the first prophet and president of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints taught that “The Church and its members are commanded by the Lord to be self-reliant and independent” (Doctrine and Covenants 78:13-14). I have always called this “Squirrel Syndrome”.

In this day and age martial law seems to be imminent, we have a president (Barack Obama) who appears to be ineligible for office and cares nothing about the rule of law, natural disasters seem to be striking more frequently, the entire world is experiencing economic depression and war seems to be likely between many countries. Given these conditions, I believe it is indeed prudent to plan ahead a few days.

Storing a years’s worth of food and essentials is overkill. It is expensive, unnecessary and shows a lack of faith in God’s Providence for His creation.

If a person makes the right choices in this life there is no reason that one should be anxious. Yeshua provided two fortiori arguments in Matthew 6:25-34, “Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?” and “Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.” These fortiori arguments show that since God cares even for the birds and the lilies, how much more will He care for His own. To be anxious demonstrates a lack of faith in God, who promises that he will graciously care for all these things.

Yeshua said, “But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you” (Matthew 6:33 ESV). In his epistle to the Romans the Apostle Paul wrote, “He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?” (Romans 8:32 ESV). In their epistle to the Philippians the Apostle Paul and the Apostle Timothy wrote, “Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God” (Philippians 4:5-6 ESV).

Human beings are of more value than animals because only humans are created “in the image of God” (Genesis 1:27), because God gave the human race dominion over all the earth and all its creatures (Genesis 1:28), and because God loves mankind so much that He sent His only begotten Son to pay the ultimate price for our sins (John 3:16).

There is scarcely any sin against which our Lord Jesus more warns his disciples, than disquieting, distracting, distrustful cares about the things of this life. This often insnares the poor as much as the love of wealth does the rich. But there is a carefulness about temporal things which is a duty, though we must not carry these lawful cares too far. Take no thought for your life. Not about the length of it; but refer it to God to lengthen or shorten it as he pleases; our times are in his hand, and they are in a good hand. Not about the comforts of this life; but leave it to God to make it bitter or sweet as he pleases. Food and raiment God has promised, therefore we may expect them. Take no thought for the morrow, for the time to come. Be not anxious for the future, how you shall live next year, or when you are old, or what you shall leave behind you. As we must not boast of tomorrow, so we must not care for to-morrow, or the events of it. God has given us life, and has given us the body. And what can he not do for us, who did that? If we take care about our souls and for eternity, which are more than the body and its life, we may leave it to God to provide for us food and raiment, which are less. Improve this as an encouragement to trust in God. We must reconcile ourselves to our worldly estate, as we do to our stature. We cannot alter the disposals of Providence, therefore we must submit and resign ourselves to them. Thoughtfulness for our souls is the best cure of thoughtfulness for the world. Seek first the kingdom of God, and make religion your business: say not that this is the way to starve; no, it is the way to be well provided for, even in this world. The conclusion of the whole matter is, that it is the will and command of the Lord Jesus, that by daily prayers we may get strength to bear us up under our daily troubles, and to arm us against the temptations that attend them, and then let none of these things move us. Happy are those who take the Lord for their God, and make full proof of it by trusting themselves wholly to his wise disposal. Let thy Spirit convince us of sin in the want of this disposition, and take away the worldliness of our hearts.
(Matthew Henry’s Concise Commentary)

“And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell. Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. But even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows. So everyone who acknowledges me before men, I also will acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven, but whoever denies me before men, I also will deny before my Father who is in heaven.”
(Matthew 10:28-33 ESV)

It is not food, clothing, shelter, cars, and other personal possessions that we need to be concerned with in this life, that is materialism. God has promised to provide our needs already, and God always keeps His promises (Joshua 1:1-6; Numbers 23:19). We need to concentrate our efforts to walk as Messiah Yeshua walked. Tomorrow will worry about itself and today is more than enough trouble already.

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The Power of Forgiveness

What is forgiveness? Forgiveness is typically defined as the process of concluding resentment, indignation or anger as a result of a perceived offense, difference or mistake, or ceasing to demand punishment or restitution. The Oxford English Dictionary defines forgiveness as ‘to grant free pardon and to give up all claim on account of an offense or debt’. The concept and benefits of forgiveness have been explored in religious thought, the social sciences and medicine. Forgiveness may be considered simply in terms of the person who forgives including forgiving themselves, in terms of the person forgiven or in terms of the relationship between the forgiver and the person forgiven. In most contexts, forgiveness is granted without any expectation of restorative justice, and without any response on the part of the offender (for example, one may forgive a person who is incommunicado or dead). In practical terms, it may be necessary for the offender to offer some form of acknowledgment, an apology, or even just ask for forgiveness, in order for the wronged person to believe himself able to forgive.

Most world religions include teachings on the nature of forgiveness, and many of these teachings provide an underlying basis for many varying modern day traditions and practices of forgiveness. Some religious doctrines or philosophies place greater emphasis on the need for humans to find some sort of divine forgiveness for their own shortcomings, others place greater emphasis on the need for humans to practice forgiveness of one another, yet others make little or no distinction between human and divine forgiveness.

Therefore, forgiveness is literally the setting aside of a debt by the one to which the debt is owed. When we view forgiveness in this manner, are we to understand that it is possible for us to pay God for our forgiveness? Absolutely not, but it should cause us to realize just how incredible and awesome God’s forgiveness toward us actually is.

In the New Testament, Yeshua speaks of the importance of Christians forgiving or showing mercy towards others. The Parable of the Prodigal Son is perhaps the best known instance of such teaching and practice of forgiveness.

This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.
(1 John 1:5-10 ESV)

A message from the Lord Jesus, the Word of life, the eternal Word, we should all gladly receive. The great God should be represented to this dark world, as pure and perfect light. As this is the nature of God, his doctrines and precepts must be such. And as his perfect happiness cannot be separated from his perfect holiness, so our happiness will be in proportion to our being made holy. To walk in darkness, is to live and act against religion. God holds no heavenly fellowship or intercourse with unholy souls. There is no truth in their profession; their practice shows its folly and falsehood. The eternal Life, the eternal Son, put on flesh and blood, and died to wash us from our sins in his own blood, and procures for us the sacred influences by which sin is to be subdued more and more, till it is quite done away. While the necessity of a holy walk is insisted upon, as the effect and evidence of the knowledge of God in Christ Jesus, the opposite error of self-righteous pride is guarded against with equal care. All who walk near to God, in holiness and righteousness, are sensible that their best days and duties are mixed with sin. God has given testimony to the sinfulness of the world, by providing a sufficient, effectual Sacrifice for sin, needed in all ages; and the sinfulness of believers themselves is shown, by requiring them continually to confess their sins, and to apply by faith to the blood of that Sacrifice. Let us plead guilty before God, be humble, and willing to know the worst of our case. Let us honestly confess all our sins in their full extent, relying wholly on his mercy and truth through the righteousness of Christ, for a free and full forgiveness, and our deliverance from the power and practice of sin.
(Matthew Henry’s Concise Commentary)

Why would God forgive us? God desires to forgive is a result of His agape love for mankind. In the New Testament, agape love refers to the covenant love of God for humans, as well as the human reciprocal love for God; the term necessarily extends to the love of one’s fellow man. Many have thought that this word represents divine, unconditional, self-sacrificing, active, volitional, and thoughtful love. Although the word does not have specific religious connotation, the word has been used by a variety of contemporary and ancient sources, including Biblical authors and Christian authors.

God pursues a continuing relationship with us that is real and personal.  Love is God’s very essence. Love, properly defined, needs an object upon which to express itself. You can be an object of God’s love or an object of His wrath.

Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us. By this we know that we abide in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit.
(1 John 4:7-13 ESV)

God’s desire is fellowship with us. While God desires fellowship with us, that prospect is spiritually impossible. What makes it impossible is His utter holiness and righteousness in opposition to our utter sinfulness and depravity.

I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me.
(John 17:20-23 ESV)

Our Lord especially prayed, that all believers might be as one body under one head, animated by one soul, by their union with Christ and the Father in him, through the Holy Spirit dwelling in them. The more they dispute about lesser things, the more they throw doubts upon Christianity. Let us endeavour to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace, praying that all believers may be more and more united in one mind and one judgment. Thus shall we convince the world of the truth and excellence of our religion, and find more sweet communion with God and his saints.
(Matthew Henry’s Concise Commentary)

The Spirit of God is the Spirit of love. He that does not love the image of God in his people, has no saving knowledge of God. For it is God’s nature to be kind, and to give happiness. The law of God is love; and all would have been perfectly happy, had all obeyed it. The provision of the gospel, for the forgiveness of sin, and the salvation of sinners, consistently with God’s glory and justice, shows that God is love. Mystery and darkness rest upon many things yet. God has so shown himself to be love, that we cannot come short of eternal happiness, unless through unbelief and impenitence, although strict justice would condemn us to hopeless misery, because we break our Creator’s laws. None of our words or thoughts can do justice to the free, astonishing love of a holy God towards sinners, who could not profit or harm him, whom he might justly crush in a moment, and whose deserving of his vengeance was shown in the method by which they were saved, though he could by his almighty Word have created other worlds, with more perfect beings, if he had seen fit. Search we the whole universe for love in its most glorious displays? It is to be found in the person and the cross of Christ. Does love exist between God and sinners? Here was the origin, not that we loved God, but that he freely loved us. His love could not be designed to be fruitless upon us, and when its proper end and issue are gained and produced, it may be said to be perfected. So faith is perfected by its works. Thus it will appear that God dwells in us by his new-creating Spirit. A loving Christian is a perfect Christian; set him to any good duty, and he is perfect to it, he is expert at it. Love oils the wheels of his affections, and sets him on that which is helpful to his brethren. A man that goes about a business with ill will, always does it badly. That God dwells in us and we in him, were words too high for mortals to use, had not God put them before us. But how may it be known whether the testimony to this does proceed from the Holy Ghost? Those who are truly persuaded that they are the sons of God, cannot but call him Abba, Father. From love to him, they hate sin, and whatever disagrees with his will, and they have a sound and hearty desire to do his will. Such testimony is the testimony of the Holy Ghost.
(Matthew Henry’s Concise Commentary)

Yeshua’s last words at His crucifixion were, “It is finished.” What was finished? The way was paved for God to have the fellowship with the apex of His creation. We can have fellowship with God now because of Yeshua’s sacrifice at Golgotha. What is God’s forgiveness? It is most clearly seen in the sacrifice of His only begotten Son on the cross. Yeshua suffered a terrible and cruel execution at His crucifixion. He took God’s wrath for all the sin in the world which was placed upon Him. Yet Yeshua had no sin, He had never broken any laws and died in the company of two criminals. They deserved their sentences, He did not. We deserve death, but Yeshua paid the price for our sins so that we don’t have to suffer eternal death.

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.
(Ephesians 1:3-10 ESV)

Spiritual and heavenly blessings are the best blessings; with which we cannot be miserable, and without which we cannot but be so. This was from the choice of them in Christ, before the foundation of the world, that they should be made holy by separation from sin, being set apart to God, and sanctified by the Holy Spirit, in consequence of their election in Christ. All who are chosen to happiness as the end, are chosen to holiness as the means. In love they were predestinated, or fore-ordained, to be adopted as children of God by faith in Christ Jesus, and to be openly admitted to the privileges of that high relation to himself. The reconciled and adopted believer, the pardoned sinner, gives all the praise of his salvation to his gracious Father. His love appointed this method of redemption, spared not his own Son, and brought believers to hear and embrace this salvation. It was rich grace to provide such a surety as his own Son, and freely to deliver him up. This method of grace gives no encouragement to evil, but shows sin in all its hatefulness, and how it deserves vengeance. The believer’s actions, as well as his words, declare the praises of Divine mercy.
(Matthew Henry’s Concise Commentary)

Who needs God’s forgiveness? Anyone who is under the curse of the original sin. Moses wrote, “The LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually” (Genesis 6:5 ESV). Isaiah probably summed up the quality of mankind’s righteousness with one verse. He wrote, “We have all become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment. We all fade like a leaf, and our iniquities, like the wind, take us away” (Isaiah 64:6 ESV). Polluted garment or filthy rags (as used in the King James Version) is a reference to menstrual cloths (H5708).

Who needs God’s forgiveness? Anyone who meets the Biblical qualifications of being a sinner. The Bible says that “all men have sinned and come short of the glory of God.” Therefore, we all need God’s forgiveness.

God’s forgiveness is His unmerited favor towards mankind. The Apostle Paul wrote, “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9 ESV). King David wrote, “He does not deal with us according to our sins, nor repay us according to our iniquities. For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us” (Psalms 103:10-12 ESV). That is the amount of forgiveness that God gives to us when we repent and serve Him. None of us deserve this from our Creator. Isaiah wrote, “I, even I, am he that blotteth out thy transgressions for mine own sake, and will not remember thy sins” (Isaiah 43:25 KJV). With forgiveness, God forgets completely forgets our sins. Many critics argue that an omniscient God could never forget something, but they fail to recognize that an omnipotent God can do anything.

What is God’s forgiveness? God’s forgiveness is experiencing His unmerited favor towards mankind. It is a gift, all you have to do is accept His sacrifice of Yeshua. There is nothing you can do to earn God’s forgiveness. No amount of good works or deed will earn salvation for anyone. The Apostle John wrote, “Thomas saith unto him, Lord, we know not whither thou goest; and how can we know the way? Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me” (John 14:5-6 KJV). There is only one God (YHVH), and the only way to have a relationship with Him is through His only begotten Son, Yeshua HaMashiach (Jesus Christ).

Anyone can experience God’s forgiveness by taking advantage of His plan of salvation.

  1. First, you need to realize your need for forgiveness. “Now we know that what things soever the law saith, it saith to them who are under the law: that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God. Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin. But now the righteousness of God without the law is manifested, being witnessed by the law and the prophets; Even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe: for there is no difference: For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God; Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus: Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God; To declare, I say, at this time his righteousness: that he might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus” (Romans 3:19-26 KJV). “For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Romans 6:23 KJV). It is necessary to forgive anyone who you perceived has wronged you in any way. Yeshua said, “For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses” (Matthew 6:14-15 ESV).
  2. Second, you need to respond to God’s provision and plan of salvation. “But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him. For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life. And not only so, but we also joy in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom we have now received the atonement” (Romans 5:8-11 KJV).
  3. Third, you need to repent of your sin. What is repentance? Many understand the term repentance to mean “turning from sin.” This is not the Biblical definition of repentance. In the Bible, the word repent means “to change one’s mind.” The Bible also tells us that true repentance will result in a change of actions (Luke 3:8-14; Acts 3:19). While repentance is not a work that earns salvation, repentance unto salvation does result in works. It is impossible to truly and fully change your mind without that causing a change in action. In the Bible, repentance results in a change in behavior. Yeshua said, “No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish” (Luke 13:3 ESV).
  4. Fourth, you must accept and receive Yeshua as your Messiah and Savior. “That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. For the scripture saith, Whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed. For there is no difference between the Jew and the Greek: for the same Lord over all is rich unto all that call upon him. For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved” (Romans 10:9-13 KJV). “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved. He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. For every one that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved. But he that doeth truth cometh to the light, that his deeds may be made manifest, that they are wrought in God” (John 3:16-21 KJV).
  5. Fifth, you need to rejoice and faithfully confess your salvation to others. “Whosoever therefore shall confess me before men, him will I confess also before my Father which is in heaven. But whosoever shall deny me before men, him will I also deny before my Father which is in heaven” (Matthew 10:32-33 KJV).
  6. Sixth, you need to obey God’s commandments and instructions. “Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost” (Acts 2:38 KJV). Baptism is not a work that earns salvation, it shows obedience to God publicly. Yeshua said, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments” (John 14:15 ESV). “Here is the patience of the saints: here are they that keep the commandments of God, and the faith of Jesus” (Revelation 14:12 KJV).

The Laws of Lashon Hara

Thou shalt not go up and down as a talebearer among thy people: neither shalt thou stand against the blood of thy neighbour: I am the LORD.
(Leviticus 19:16 KJV)

It is forbidden to speak disparagingly of one’s chaver (male firend) or chaver (female friend). Even if the information is entirely truthful, it is called Lashon Hara (evil tongue). If the information also contains any fabrication, it is also called Motzi Shem Ra (to produce a bad name). The speaker of Lashon Hara violates the prohibition of Leviticus 19:16.

Leviticus 19:16 explicitly prohibits Lashon Hara and Rechilut (talebearing or gossip that incites hatred and resentment), yet there are many more commandments that bear on the speaking of Lashon Hara.

The above seriousness of speaking Lashon Hara relates to someone who incidentally includes something inappropriate in his speech. But those who make it a habit to talk about others in a derogatory manner (“Did you hear…..”, “Do you know she…..”, etc.) are labeled Ba’alei Lashon Hara (masters of Lashon Hara, in that such speech is an integral part of themselves), and their transgression is far more severe. They regularly create a Chilul HaShem (desecration of the name of God; Leviticus 22:31-33) because of their rebellious manner. Though they may view their activities as social tools, such behavior cuts them off from many good things in the world around them.

Therefore shall ye keep my commandments, and do them: I am the LORD. Neither shall ye profane my holy name; but I will be hallowed among the children of Israel: I am the LORD which hallow you, That brought you out of the land of Egypt, to be your God: I am the LORD.
(Leviticus 22:31-33 KJV)

Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil. For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled. Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.
(Matthew 5:17-19 KJV)

For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become accountable for all of it. For he who said, “Do not commit adultery,” also said, “Do not murder.” If you do not commit adultery but do murder, you have become a transgressor of the law. So speak and so act as those who are to be judged under the law of liberty. For judgment is without mercy to one who has shown no mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment.
(James 2:10-13 ESV)

The comparison of Lashon Hara to well-known and agreed-upon sins such as murder is surprising. But at the same time, we can imagine why: just as the violation (sins) of the Ten Commandments damage and destroy vital physical aspects of the world, Lashon Hara afflicts the emotional and social realms.

There is no difference when speaking Lashon Hara whether one tells a juicy story of his own will or because someone encourages (or pressures) him to do so. Even if the speaker’s teacher (Rebbe) or parent whom the person must honor and fear, and not contradict, requests that he tell about an incident, if the relating of the information would result in Lashon Hara or even Avak Lashon Hara (speech that provokes Lashon Hara), he cannot say it.

If you think about it, Lashon Hara isn’t any different from any other commandment. If someone encouraged you, or even nagged you, to eat a cheeseburger, you would still be fully responsible for your actions. Certainly social pressure for gossip seems more effective than it is for food, drink and many other areas, but that may be because we are not used to saying “no” to evil speech.

Even when subject to great financial loss, one is not permitted to speak Lashon Hara. This may mean that he will be viewed as a fool, and denied financial opportunity by the “intelligent” people with whom he associates. As in all Mitzvot Lo Taaseh (Torah prohibitions), we are commanded to forgo all of our income.

It is generally helpful to try and develop a (personal) rational approach to the laws of Lashon Hara. When someone is confronted with a situation in which he is expected to speak derogatorily about someone, if he can respond with a simple personal philosophy (or sometimes just enough self-confidence to convey adherence to a personal philosophy), he will leave most of those situations with others’ respect intact. And in those situations which are not in the “most” category, the best thing to do is remember the benefits that accrue through hardship in observing this mitzvah.

If someone stands to lose personal honor by not speaking Lashon Hara, he must also sustain the loss and remain silent. For example, if one is sitting in a group speaking Lashon Hara, and he has no way to separate from them at the moment, he cannot participate in their lively discussion. This applies even if he will look like a simpleton or social clod. He should try to hold himself back and remember the many sayings of the Sages regarding his situation: “Better to be considered a fool in the eyes of man throughout one’s lifetime than as a wicked person in the eyes of God for one moment (Eduyot 5:6),” “the reward is according to the effort (Pirkei Avot/Ethics of the Fathers 5:25),” “one hundred times more in hardship than without it (i.e. the reward is one hundred fold; Avot d’Rabbi Natan),” and the Vilna Gaon who writes that “for every second that one remains silent he will merit reward beyond the comprehension of any being, even celestial.”

Whether spoken, written, or hinted with gestures or any other way (if you looked at the Rashi in Leviticus 19:16 you saw that winking was described as a characteristic behavior of Holchei Rachil – those who go about slandering), any communication of Lashon Hara is prohibited. This also applies if you weren’t the writer of a piece disparaging someone. Rabbi Pliskin elaborates on a footnote in the Hebrew about the communication of Lashon Hara: showing a letter or other writing (e.g. a newspaper) to belittle its writer would also be forbidden. I would anticipate that this would also apply to footage in a film or other media.

Even if you’re disparaging yourself alongside the subject, it is prohibited. It doesn’t matter if you look even worse than the subject, and it doesn’t matter if you mention yourself first. Rabbi Pliskin gives some nice examples:

  1. Ben and I both shoplifted when we were younger.
  2. Nobody in our group studies Torah properly.

It is also forbidden to speak Lashon Hara about yourself.

The Hebrew word translated “gossip” in the Old Testament is defined as “one who reveals secrets, one who goes about as a talebearer or scandal-monger.” A gossiper is a person who has privileged information about people and proceeds to reveal that information to those who have no business knowing it. Gossip is distinguished from sharing information in two ways:

  1. Intent. Gossipers often have the goal of building themselves up by making others look bad and exalting themselves as some kind of repositories of knowledge.
  2. The type of information shared. Gossipers speak of the faults and failings of others, or reveal potentially embarrassing or shameful details regarding the lives of others without their knowledge or approval. Even if they mean no harm, it is still gossip.

King Solomon wrote, “Whoever keeps his mouth and his tongue keeps himself out of trouble” (Proverbs 21:23 ESV).

In his epistle to the Ephesians, the Apostle Paul wrote, “Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you” (Ephesians 4:29-32).

James, the brother of Yeshua, had plenty to say about the tongue. “If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person’s religion is worthless” (James 1:26 ESV). He also wrote, “So also the tongue is a small member, yet it boasts of great things. How great a forest is set ablaze by such a small fire! And the tongue is a fire, a world of unrighteousness. The tongue is set among our members, staining the whole body, setting on fire the entire course of life, and set on fire by hell. For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and sea creature, can be tamed and has been tamed by mankind, but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God. From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things ought not to be so” (James 3:5-10 ESV).

King David wrote, “I said, I will take heed to my ways, that I sin not with my tongue: I will keep my mouth with a bridle, while the wicked is before me. I was dumb with silence, I held my peace, even from good; and my sorrow was stirred. My heart was hot within me, while I was musing the fire burned: then spake I with my tongue, LORD, make me to know mine end, and the measure of my days, what it is; that I may know how frail I am. Behold, thou hast made my days as an handbreadth; and mine age is as nothing before thee: verily every man at his best state is altogether vanity. Selah. Surely every man walketh in a vain shew: surely they are disquieted in vain: he heapeth up riches, and knoweth not who shall gather them” (Psalms 39:1-6 KJV).

“If an evil thought should arise in the mind, suppress it. Watchfulness in the habit, is the bridle upon the head; watchfulness in acts, is the hand upon the bridle. When not able to separate from wicked men, we should remember they will watch our words, and turn them, if they can, to our disadvantage. Sometimes it may be necessary to keep silence, even from good words; but in general we are wrong when backward to engage in edifying discourse. Impatience is a sin that has its cause within ourselves, and that is, musing; and its ill effects upon ourselves, and that is no less than burning. In our greatest health and prosperity, every man is altogether vanity, he cannot live long; he may die soon. This is an undoubted truth, but we are very unwilling to believe it. Therefore let us pray that God would enlighten our minds by his Holy Spirit, and fill our hearts with his grace, that we may be ready for death every day and hour.”
(Matthew Henry’s Concise  Commentary)

It is quite obvious from the texts of the Bible, Rabbinical Commentaries and Christian Theologians that the tongue (although small) is capable great sin. This is an area we all need to work on constantly. Psalms 39:1 is one of my favorite passages from Scripture, my tongue has always been my greatest stumbling block in my walk with YHVH.