More Than Words
Before I go further, a disclaimer: I work with words for a living. I truly believe there is no force on this earth more powerful than words. They bring us closer together than anything else, capable of the most amazing good. But they can also drive us unbearably far apart, capable of the most unspeakable evil. I truly believe words come from God – but can also be manipulated by the devil.
But sometimes, words aren’t enough.
Lately, I’ve been reading the New Testament book of James. Written by the half-brother of Jesus, turning words into action is a key theme of James. It may be a simple message, but you know what? He’s absolutely right.
James doesn’t sugarcoat things, or skip around the subject: words must be backed up by actions. What good is it if you say you’re going to do something, then don’t even try to do it? At best, people will see you as unreliable.
The real-world examples are almost as numerous as grains of sand on a beach, ranging from the mundane (going to the store to buy eggs) to society-shaping (doing something about gun violence in America after yet more mass shootings). Yet no matter the scale, the formula is the same: words + actions = results.
James 1:22 (NLT) says this: “But don’t just listen to God’s word. You must do what it says. Otherwise, you are only fooling yourselves.”
He goes on with a fantastic example of this: “For if you listen to the word and don’t obey, it is like glancing at your face in a mirror. You see yourself, walk away, and forget what you look like. But if you look carefully into the perfect law that sets you free, and if you do what it says, and don’t forget what you heard, then God will bless you for doing it.”
James then gives us an even more powerful example. As he writes in 1:26 (NLT): “If you claim to be religious, but don’t control your tongue, you are fooling yourself, and your religion is worthless.”
In other words: it’s one thing to say you’re a Christian and believe in Jesus and His sacrifice – but it’s meaningless if we don’t also put that into practice with our actions.
Yet another example comes from James 2:19-20. He writes: “You say you have faith, for you believe that there is one God. Good for you! Even the demons believe this, and they tremble in terror. How foolish! Can’t you see that faith without good deeds is useless?”
We can say the sweetest, kindest things with the very best of intentions. But if we don’t back our words up with actions – if we don’t live up to what we say – then our words are as meaningless as a page in a book that’s never read… or a website that no-one ever visits.
And again: this is coming from someone whose entire livelihood comes from words.
Let’s all try and be like James – and put our faith into action.