I came across this story in Matthew today which reminded me of the age old battle between words and deeds which continues to this very day. Maybe discrepancy is a more accurate description than the word battle is. Nevertheless, there is often a lack of congruency shall we say, between what we say and what we do. The two don’t always match up.
It is at this point I should confess – this is too often true in my own life as well. My words sound so good but my actions too often don’t live up to what I say, or they actually contradict what I say. Yes, my deeds may conflict with what I say I believe or with what I say I will do. So this story really resonated with me today.
It’s a story of a father and his two sons. To each son the father said, “Son, go and work today in the vineyard.” The first son answered, ” ‘I will not’ . . . but later he changed his mind and went.”
The other son answered, ” ‘I will, sir,’ but he did not go.” Then Jesus, who was telling this story, asked His disciples, ” ‘Which of the two did what his father wanted?’ ‘The first,’ they answered.” (Matthew 21:28-31)
Neither son’s words matched his deeds. That is clear. Ironically, the one who refused his father’s request with his words actually honored his father’s wishes with his actions when he went to work in the vineyard.
Many of the expressions we use today such as “actions speak louder than words” or “talk is cheap” or “don’t tell me, show me!” or even “all bark and no bite,” (all talk and no action) reflect the underlying truth revealed in this parable of Jesus.
I’ve had many interesting conversations lately related to the upcoming election and all the issues which surround it. One theme is abundantly, consistently, clear and all prevailing with most individuals, regardless of their gender, ethnicity, economic group, age, religion etc. – they do not like President Trump’s tweets. They find them offensive and objectionable across the board. In other words, they don’t like the President’s words – they do not like what he says.
I would weigh in, but I’m not on any social media, including Facebook and Twitter, so I don’t see them. I do know that when something on my TV screen or on my car radio offends me – I change the channel or turn it off! I am free to choose what I do and do not spend my time watching, listening to or reading.
I also know that the President’s tweets do not impact my life for better or for worse. My personal situation is not improved nor made more difficult by what he says. However, the things he does in his role as President do impact my daily life. Lower taxes impact me for the better as a wage earner. Eliminating U.S. dependence on foreign oil impacts me everyday at the gas pump.
The Criminal Justice reform act impacted many personally for the better, including Alice Johnson, who recently shared her inspiring story. Bringing jobs home from overseas, puts many Americans back to work and secures our supply chain in uncertain times. It was John F. Kennedy who said, “A rising tide raises all boats.” We all benefit from a secure and stable economy.
Rebuilding our military and pulling our troops out of unnecessary conflicts around the globe, saves lives and money that can now be spent building up rather than fighting wars where no one wins but many lives are lost. Taking care of our veterans, those that have protected us and our freedoms at great cost to themselves and their families is something else the President has done and continues to do.
Many U.S. presidents in the past talked about moving the American Embassy to Jerusalem but did not do so. (remember the son who said to his father, “I will, sir” but did not go?) President Trump made this move a reality, keeping his word. Now there are two peace deals done in the Middle East as well.
I am grateful that the President closed our borders to travel from China and then later to travel from Europe even though he was labeled a “fear-monger” and a “xenophobe” at the time by those who opposed his actions. I am grateful for renegotiated trade deals with China and NAFTA and for the deregulation that has allowed more timely development of medicines and potential vaccines for the treatment of COVID.
I celebrated along with many Americans when President Trump negotiated with Turkey and secured the release of American pastor Andrew Brunson, who was being held prisoner in Turkey. I was encouraged when I heard Tim Scott, a U.S. senator, speak of the Opportunity Zones he and the President had worked to create in urban areas across our country. It reminded me that unemployment had been at an all time low, for all groups of people, in mid-March when COVID concerns forced the closing of much of the economy.
I have appreciated President Trump’s public support of all our law enforcement officers across the country during this time when standing up for them and the job they do everyday is not a popular position. Police officers put their lives on the line everyday as they serve and protect us, but now they are under attack from the very people and communities they have been protecting all this time. The fact that the President has the courage to take a stand that is not popular, rather than just remain silent on the issue speaks volumes to me. (well, the action does the speaking)
President Trump’s working to preserve and protect our religious freedoms as well as His efforts to protect the lives of the unborn, make a tangible difference in my life now and will make a definitive difference far into the future of this country.
I don’t know what’s in all those tweets that’s got everyone so unhappy? I do know those tweets don’t affect the circumstances or the realities of my daily life but actions do have an impact that is much more real.
It’s like with dating and boyfriends and all. They can tell me they love me all they want. And it’s nice to hear and it makes me feel good for awhile until I realize I haven’t seen any actions to go along with the words. And maybe I’ve even experienced actions that directly contradict their words, such as spending time with other women or physically hurting me or taking money from me or demeaning me . . .
Words promise so much – but it is deeds that deliver and it is actions that make a real difference in my life and in the world. Maybe that’s why it says in James 2:14-26,
“What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save him? . . . In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead. . . . Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by what I do. . . . As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead.”
So when I go to vote, I am going to have to ask myself, which is more important to me, the offense of the President’s tweets or the benefits of his actions? In other words, (pun intended) his words or his deeds? What he says doesn’t impact my daily life but what he does will impact my ability to earn a living and to live my life in a safe and peaceful society.
Words may take the form of a promise or a threat. They either hold out hope or fill me with fear. What someone says can affect my thoughts and my feelings for awhile. But ultimately, without accompanying actions the words become just empty promises or idle threats. Apart from deeds, words eventually lose their power, becoming empty, hollow, meaningless sounds. Words have no impact apart from any accompanying actions.
The boyfriend who tells me how much he loves me all day long but never does a kind or caring thing will soon lose his credibility with me.
Fine speech and fancy rhetoric are very persuasive, engaging my feelings and emotions. Still I remember what Jesus taught in Matthew 7:15-20, when He said,
“Watch out for false prophets. . . . By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? Likewise every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. . . . Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them.”
I guess I should be paying attention to the fruit (deeds) as I struggle with what or who will best preserve our God given right to life, liberty, and the opportunity to pursue our dreams. Words or deeds? That is the question.
sincerely, Grace Day