The power of words

In preparation for Sunday’s sermon on Psalm 5 (quoted by Paul in Romans 3 as evidence of the sinfulness of all of us), I ran across the following by C. S. Lewis. Read to the very end for the punch line.

Closely connected with these warnings against what I have called ‘connivance’ are the protests of the Psalter against other sins of the tongue. I think that when I began to read it these surprised me a little; I had half expected that in a simpler and more violent age when more evil was done with the knife, the big stick, and the firebrand, less would be done by talk. But in reality the Psalmists mention hardly any kind of evil more often than this one, which the most civilized societies share. ‘Their throat is an open sepulcher, they flatter’ (5, 10), ‘under his tongue is ungodliness and vanity’, or ‘perjury’ . . . (10, 7), ‘deceitful lips’ (12, 3), ‘lying lips’ (31, 20), ‘words full of deceit’ (36, 3), the ‘whispering’ of evil men (41, 2), cruel lies that ‘cut like a razor’ (52, 3), talk that sounds ‘smooth as oil’ and will wound like a sword (55, 22), pitiless jeering (102, 8). It is all over the Psalter. One almost hears the incessant whispering, tattling, lying, scolding, flattery, and circulation of rumours. No historical readjustments are here required, we are in the world we know. We even detect in that muttering and wheedling chorus voices which are familiar. One of them may be too familiar for recognition.” (C. S. Lewis, Reflections on the Psalms, pages 64-65).