We’ve all heard and spoken the idiom “Actions Speak Louder than Words.” Its origins are traced back as early as 1200 in a sermon by St. Anthony of Padua, and it continues to be a popular sermon in the Catholic church during Pentecost. The essence of the sermon is that the person filled with the Holy Spirit speaks different languages in the way we witness for Christ. In some moments we speak with humility and patience because we reveal ourselves through the fruit of the spirits or lack thereof. The sermon goes on to say that we are cursed just as the fig tree was cursed when there was no fruit but only leaves, and we undermine the teachings when our actions say otherwise. The statement has been used with different phrasing by notable personalities such as Benjamin Franklin, Abraham Lincoln, Dale Carnegie, Mark Twain, and of course, you, me and others many times over.
What are we saying?
If our actions speak louder than words then we are speaking every moment other than sleeping, and even then we all know someone who talks in their sleep! So, what are we saying with our voice? What about in our silence? What are we saying with our body language? What about when we speak with our eyes or our smile? Are we saying anything based on our clothing? Do we speak based on what we chose to eat and drink? What are we saying when we choose our entertainment? What are we saying when we collectively worship or don’t? What are we saying when we give financially or don’t? What are we saying when we serve or don’t? What are we saying based on how we spend our time? I’m not suggesting that all of our choices are poor, but every choice we make speaks to someone.
How do we listen?
We listen with all of our senses: Sight, Sound, Taste, Touch and Smell. We hear our words. We feel the silence. We see the body language. We often smell the choices and taste the bitter tears of sadness or sweetness of laughter and belonging.
I contend that we have five listeners.
- Our families: Our spouse, our children and our parents are listening. Our families are listening for the sound of love and acceptance. Do they see you giving them your time and attention, or are we too busy scrolling on our devices? Do they hear a word of affirmation and encouragement or disdain? Do they hear care and concern for aging parents or disrespectful speech? Do they hear love and tenderness between Mom and Dad or is fighting more prevalent?
- Our community: Our neighbors hear our conversations. Do they hear laughter and arguments? What do they hear when we don’t wave or smile? What do they hear if we bring in their trash can? What do they hear if they never see you come and go to church or Bible study? What do they hear if you deliver them flowers or share a batch of cookies? What do they hear when you have the music on? What do they hear when you load up the car and head to church or have your small group over? What do they hear when you disagree politically or spiritually?
- The marketplace: What do they hear when you’re angry or disappointed? What do they hear when you manage relationships? What do they hear when we ignore accomplishments? What do they hear when we never ask them to join in for a lunch or coffee break? What do they hear when we use crude language and then bow in a blessing for food? What do they hear when we’re silent when a wrong has been done?
- Ourselves: We talk to ourselves more than anyone else. We tell ourselves lies; we tell ourselves we can’t do things. We tell ourselves we should do some things. We tell ourselves what we do doesn’t matter. We are constantly talking to ourselves, and it’s more negative than encouraging.
- God: He hears every thought, sees every action, and is ALWAYS listening to us. Not to condemn us but to love us to Him.
How do we overcome what others have heard?
Whether our journey with Christ is new and just beginning or we’ve walked with Him for decades, we are all like the apostle Paul. We are all the chief of all sinners, and we all do things we know we shouldn’t do. So how do we overcome ourselves? How do we become a person that speaks well even in silence so that those that are listening can hear, see, feel, taste and smell the aroma of Christ?
On this side of heaven, we will always do battle with our sinful nature. Many times in the last few weeks God has caused me to read 2 Corinthians 10:4. “We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” So how do we do that?
Romans 12: 1-2 Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God — this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is — his good, pleasing and perfect will.
We take every thought captive by the renewing of our minds and then we dress for the day with the full armor of GOD. Christ will be at work in you and his work will affect the listeners in your life.
Preach the Gospel at all times and if necessary use words.
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