Ann Spangler

Ann Spangler is an award-winning writer and speaker.

Lashon Ha-ra

Two gossiping girls My children and I have developed a way to pass the time during a long drive. We take a simple phrase like “Look at that” and then say it with as many different inflections as we can think of in order to bring out various meanings. It’s amazing how quickly an innocuous statement can morph into one that communicates humor, threat, shock, disgust, delight, or anger, depending on your tone of voice and the way you say it.

In Jewish ethical teaching, it is considered wrong not only to slander someone but to say something that will lower someone else’s esteem in the eyes of others. The Hebrew term for this is lashon ha-ra. So, for instance, you wouldn’t say something like this: “I feel sorry for Joe. Being out of work for six months seems to have made his depression a lot worse.” Or “Too bad about Sarah’s breakup. I thought she finally found a guy who could love her despite her weight.” There are, of course, notable exceptions. You can express a negative truth when the person you are speaking to needs the information. So if your friend is thinking of consulting a financial adviser you know to be incompetent, you are free to tell him what you know. Otherwise you are obligated to keep silent.

Rabbi Joseph Telushkin explains that even nonverbal communications can violate this law. “Making a face when someone’s name is mentioned, rolling one’s eyes, winking, or saying sarcastically, ‘So-and-so is very smart’ are all violations of the law,” he says (1).  The same is true when it comes to the use of innuendo—implying something negative without actually saying it.

What if we were to adopt this rule of lashon ha-ra for ourselves? Wouldn’t it help us learn greater control of our tongues and our attitudes? Today make a promise to yourself to refrain from negativity toward others—in both your verbal and nonverbal communications. It may prove frustrating at first, but in the end, doing so will increase your peace and contribute to the peace of others. 

(1) Joseph Telushkin, Words That Hurt, Words That Heal (New York: William Morrow, 1996), 23.

(Image courtesy of lusi/freeimages.com)

 

 

How Much is Peace Worth?

A sky-diver preparing to jump out of the planeWhat would you do for a quarter of a million dollars? Jump out of a plane (with a parachute, of course)? Parade around in a Mickey Mouse suit in hundred-degree weather? Eat a gazillion hotdogs smothered in red-hot chili sauce? Go swimming in Lake Michigan in February?

For that much money most of us would be willing to do any number of unpleasant things, as long as they didn’t involve moral compromise or danger to life and limb. But what are you willing to do today in order to live a life of greater peace?

I ask the question because the priceless peace we seek comes only from following the ways of God, which may not always feel easy. Sometimes they will feel downright unpleasant, at least at first. Here are a few examples. The woman filled with bitterness will need to pray for those who have hurt her. The man in an illicit relationship will need to break it off. The woman who has based her life on money will need to realize that everything she has belongs to God. The man who is too busy to pray will need to make time in his life for God.

So often the way toward peace is counter-intuitive, cutting as it does against our instinctive bent toward self-reliance, self-preservation, and self-aggrandizement. But since when does anything good ever come without effort?

If you desire the precious peace of God, decide today to listen for his voice and then do what he asks. Trust him for the results, and you will not be disappointed.

(Image courtesy of m0thman/freeimages.com)

 

 

Where Your Treasure Is...

A treasure chest full of coins and goodiesLately corporations seem intent on squeezing more work out of every person on the job. While technology has led to rapid gains, some of the gains have simply come from loading people with more and more responsibility, making them run like mice on a wheel. If you are an employee, there may not be much you can do about it. But some of us bring this kind of pressure on ourselves by the choices we make.

As the pastor of a large church, Jim Cymbala says that he sometimes sees people in his congregation who are working two or three jobs to get ahead. “They are going to expand their business,” he says, “make money for a rainy day, or buy a rental property here or a little side business there, and their assets will grow even faster. Yes, it means missing church on Sunday and missing time with their kids, but they use the old saying ‘Mama didn’t raise no fool, you know.’ In a little while, they tell me, their schedule will lighten up so they can give more attention to the Word and prayer, their service for the Lord, their marriage, their child-raising responsibility . . . soon, but not yet. At the moment, they have to virtually kill themselves for the almighty dollar.” (1)

Cymbala isn’t faulting those of us who have no choice but to work more than one job. He is only pointing out the importance of priorities. Scripture says, “Wherever your treasure is, there the desires of your heart will also be” (Matthew 6:21). A reasonable paraphrase might go like this: “Wherever your treasure is, there your time and money will also be.”

To seek and find more of God’s peace means we need to be ruthlessly honest with ourselves to discover what we really treasure. If we find that our treasure gauge—our measure of what is most valuable in life—is malfunctioning, we have only to turn to God and ask him to help us reorder our priorities. 

(1) Jim Cymbala, Fresh Faith (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1999), 91.

(Image courtesy of krilm/freeimages.com)

Beloved Enemies

I used to think I had no enemies. No one whoTwo fingers made into woman and man puppets with sad faces hated me. No one lying in wait to trip me up. No one with my worst interests at heart. But then I decided to redefine the word enemy. What if, instead of interpreting the word to mean someone who was trying to kill, attack, or take me down, someone who aimed bombs or grenades at me, I also applied it to people who are hard to work with or live with? People who sometimes offend me or who at times drive me crazy by the things they do or don’t do? Not wanting to label them as the Enemy, I started thinking of them as the Beloved Enemy, because often such people are close to my heart.

I imagine that many of those who sin against us most frequently fall into this category. They are husbands, friends, children, coworkers, and members of our churches. These are people we can’t get away from even if we want to. And most of the time we don’t want to because we care for them. Still, because we live in close contact with them, the offenses can pile up, affecting our relationship. This is particularly true when negative behaviors remain frustratingly the same. The husband who keeps those sarcastic remarks coming. The child who continues to act disrespectfully. The coworker who always jumps in to take the credit.

Precisely because such people are beloved, we owe it to them to tell them the truth about how their behavior affects us. And precisely because they are our “enemies,” we have to do our best to treat them as Jesus instructs: doing good to them, even if they aren’t doing good to us.

(Image courtesy of theodore99/freeimages.com)

About Ann Spangler

Ann Spangler is an award-winning writer and speaker. Her best-selling books include Praying the Names of God, Praying the Names of Jesus, Women of the Bible (coauthored with Jean Syswerda) and Sitting at the Feet of Rabbi Jesus (coauthored with Lois Tverberg).

Praised for the freshness, depth, and honesty of her writing, Ann writes in ways that reveal not just her intellectual curiosity but her desire for a deeper connection with God.  Her fascination with and love of Scripture have resulted in books that have opened the Bible to a wide range of readers. Together, her books have sold nearly 3 million copies.

For the chance to win a free copy of one of Ann's books visit her website at: annspangler.com

  • Editors' Picks

    4 Prayer Killers
    4 Prayer Killers
  • Do Laborers Fit Our Theology of Vocation?
    Do Laborers Fit Our Theology of Vocation?
  • How Islam Conquered Christianity
    How Islam Conquered Christianity
;