Listen: Chris Witts presents Morning Devotions.
By Chris WittsThursday 18 Nov 2021Morning Devotions with Chris WittsDevotionsReading Time: 5 minutes
Since I was a little kid in the 1950s, I recall people many times saying, actions speak louder than words. I’m sure you’ve heard that popular phrase, too—and I want to think about it for a few minutes here.
It actually goes back to 1736—Actions speak louder than words, and are more to be regarded. But as I looked into it a bit, it went back even further to the 1500s and it said then, Saying is a different thing from doing. And I think I like that definition better: Saying is a different thing from doing—a phrase that means a person’s actions make more impact than just their words alone.
Put another way, instead of just talking about doing something, it’s more meaningful if a person actually does something. Saying things is easy, or as another phrase puts it, talk is cheap. But it’s our actions that help to give our words meaning.
The way to have an impact
Think about it for a moment. What you do has a bigger impact on others, more than what you say. The phrase actions speak louder than words means that people are more likely to believe what you do rather than what you say. You can say anything you like without believing strongly in it. And some people do that all the time. I find that very disappointing. It’s much easier to talk about something than it is to actually follow through with it.
Any parent knows that actions speak louder than words. Ever been in a grocery store and heard a frustrated mother of a young child say, If you don’t behave, we are just going to leave and go home? The kid knows she’s not going to leave. She has to get food for the family. So the bad behaviour continues. Now if she had said that when they get home little Billy wasn’t going to be able to watch a television show he enjoyed unless the behaviour improved, she might have a chance. But only if she follows through.
What we do has more significance than what we say. I think that’s the big idea here. Research experts tell us we communicate only seven percent with our words, 35% with our tone of voice and 58% with our actions. That’s valuable to know. You leave a lasting impact by what you do, not so much by what you say. People may better remember the way you spoke to them, rather than what you actually said.
Let’s not merely say that we love each other; let us show the truth by our actions. (1 John 3:18 – NLT)
Then there was another survey I read, and people were asked if people were known by their actions or their words. The result was that 57% believe people are known by their actions and 43% believe that actions do not speak louder than words.
Most of us are taught that doing what we say and saying what we do are important If we want to be known as reliable and trustworthy persons. What we say and what we do need to match up as closely as possible—so that there’s a consistency and purposefulness about the way we live. But too often our words and our actions just don’t line up.
A construction crew were laying a large drainpipe for a new building. While digging the trench for the pipe, the workers came across a huge electrical cable that crossed directly over the path of their work. The excavation halted until an electrician could come over and take a look. The electrician came and inspected the cable, and after a few minutes he told the workers that the cable was dead. Go ahead and cut it out of the way, he told them. The foreman of the workers asked, Are you sure there’s no danger? Absolutely, came the reply from the electrician. Then the foreman asked, Well then, will you cut it for us? The electrician hesitated and then answered, I’m not that sure.
What Scripture says about our actions
The Bible says quite a lot about our actions. We read in 1 John 3:18:“Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth”. Your actions will speak much louder than any words you will ever say. It is very important that as Christians, we follow the example of Jesus Christ. It doesn’t matter where we are or who we are with. The words we speak and the things we do should always reflect our faith. Sometimes we are good at telling other people what they should do and how they should live, but we fail to follow our own instructions. We need to, as the saying goes, walk the walk, not just talk the talk.
Some time ago, I saw a Peanuts comic strip that had Snoopy on top of his doghouse with a flock of baby birds. The time had come for the baby birds to learn how to fly, and Snoopy was their teacher. Snoopy flapped his ears and walked to the end of the roof of the doghouse. He leaped into the air and continued to flap his ears. Unfortunately he landed right on his head. He got back up onto the roof and shared this lesson: “Do as I say to do and not what I do.”
Jesus said this as recorded in Matthew 5:16: “Make your light shine so that others will see the good that you do and will praise your Father in Heaven”. Somewhere else in the New Testament Jesus said “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.’ (John 13:35 – ESV).
Putting your faith into action. The Bible says, practice what you preach—a cardinal rule for Christians. It’s the way Christians act to reflect God to a broken world, as his representative. Our belief has to reflect our lifestyle—and our behaviour towards others.