Their own tongues will ruin them, and all who see them will shake their heads in scorn.
In Psalm 64, David complains to God about his enemies who are plotting against him. These foes are not aiming literal weapons at him, however. Rather, they “sharpen their tongues like swords and aim their bitter words like arrows” (64:3). Yet David is confident that God will execute his justice against David’s enemies by shooting his own “arrows.” These will not be God’s attacking words, however. Rather, “Their own tongues will ruin them” (64:8).
Psalm 64 does not explain exactly how this will happen. Perhaps the enemies’ lies will be exposed and they will be discredited. Possibly their penchant for criticism will turn people against them. Maybe their negativity will cause them to lose social stature when David is exonerated. Though we can’t be sure exactly how God’s justice will play out, we do know that the enemies will get what’s coming to them. The punishment will fit the crime.
It seems to me that what David describes in Psalm 64:8 still happens today. People who make their way in the world through criticism and harshness often reap what they sow. Those who major in negativity might gain momentary advantage, but they lose friends, trust, and social stature. I think, for example, of a man in my church in Irvine who always had to make his criticism known. In time, people tended to ignore him because he became so tiresome, even when he had a point.
As I reflect upon Psalm 64 today, I am reminded that I want to be a person who speaks positively. Sure, there is a time for creative criticism. Christians aren’t called to Pollyannaish pretending in our speech. But we are challenged to “speak the truth in love” (Eph. 4:15) and to “think about things that are worthy of praise” (Phil. 4:8). Colossians 4:6 urges: “Let your conversation be gracious and attractive so that you will have the right response for everyone.” If we season our speech with grace, we will never be ruined by our own tongues.
QUESTIONS FOR REFLECTION: Have you ever been hurt by something hurtful you said to or about somebody else? In general, are you someone who speaks positively? Or do you tend to be overly critical and negative?
PRAYER: Dear Lord, I am reminded today of the power of my words to do good and to do evil. I want to be someone who speaks graciously, even when I have to say something negative. May I consistently say that which is edifying and positive. Keep me from unnecessary criticism and gossip. May I always have a good word—a truthful good word—for everyone.
Even as I am to be a light in this world, one whose good works reflect back on you, may the same be true of my words. May they shine with your light into this dark world. Amen.
Image courtesy of Laity Lodge Youth Camp, one of our sister programs in the Foundations for Laity Renewal.