The movie, Darkest Hour, tells the story of Winston Churchill’s early days as Prime Minister of the UK during World War 2. It seems clear today that Churchill was the right leader for the job but in May 1940 he had little support, especially from his own party. There was great pressure in his war cabinet to seek a peace agreement with Hitler as many members didn’t want to fight a war.
To counter the pressure and deal with rumors about his plans Churchill goes to Parliament and makes his famous “Never give up” speech. The speech changed the mood, opposition seemed to vanish, his party rallied to his side and the battle of Britain was on. In the movie, one man turns to the other, after the speech, and asks, “What just happened?” “He mobilized the English language and sent it into battle” was the reply.
Words matter. Words are powerful. They can be used for good and they can be used to cause great damage. We don’t have to look to social media influences or national leaders to understand this. Our lives are impacted by the power of words every day.
In Psalm 64, David is asking God to hide him from his relentless enemies. While he mentions a number of weapons he refers to the power of the tongue. “Hide me” he prays, from the wicked who “sharpen their tongues like swords and aim cruel words like deadly arrows.” (Psalm 64:3) These enemies love to take pot-shots at innocent people without warning. Harsh words can wound and cause damage with far reaching effects.
We think of David as the great warrior on the battlefield, fighting physically for his nation. In this Psalm, I think his pain is coming from somewhere else. People have wounded him with falsehood and lies. It seems this was the intention of his enemies, to use their words as weapons.
Scripture counsels us many times to watch our words for they can cause as much damage as a bottle of poison. (James 3:3-12) It’s easy to make quick comments on social media or send a flippant text message without thinking. We throw out words without care for how they may sound. The tongue may be the hardest part of the body to sanctify.