Words matter. Sometimes they wound. At points they murder.
The Bible treats the power of words with remarkable care. It knows they can give life, or take it.
With stark parallelism, the one-hundred-fortieth psalm casts its light upon the destructive power of the slanderer, wishing his absence from the community with the same vehemence that would deny long life to the one who exercises violence by more conventional means:
Do not let the slanderer be established in the land; let evil speedily hunt down the violent!
Because human opinion is fickle and vulnerable to eloquent lies, slander is to be considered a dangerous habit. Where freedom of speech has enjoyed its unquestioned and totalitarian libertinism, we find it difficult to imagine that a community should see the ‘merely’ verbal violence of slander as a lethal matter. We fool ourselves.
Words matter. They shape conscience, society, and practice. They ennoble the city, they enrage the mob.
Weapons and strong arms gone perverse spill blood. Words do, too.
So, this counter-deceptive prayer: Do not let the slanderer be established in the land.