Words are not enough if they aren’t backed up with actions. This statement seems intuitive enough. Don’t talk the talk if you can’t walk the walk. Most of us have heard this little aphorism before and readily accept it at face value. We have even seen (and maybe even accepted as true) this statement: Preach the gospel at all times. When necessary, use words. Words are meaningless without action.
Actions are important, but what about words? Should we regard words as less important than actions? Should we all just take a vow of silence and try to do our best to communicate all we can through body language and good behavior?
Scripture seems to indicate that words are far more important than culture wants us to think they are. Paul admonishes us to speak truth in love with one another (Ephesians 4:15) and to encourage and build one another up (1Thessalonians 5:11). How can we do this without words?
Actually, encouraging one another is a lot bigger of a concern in scripture than most people realize. In communicating with one another, we should remember the wisdom of Proverbs:
A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.
— Proverbs 15:1
Kind words are like honey–sweet to the soul and healthy for the body.
— Proverbs 16:24
Words are an inevitability, and how we use them can be the difference between someone coming to know Christ or not, someone feeling more or less disheartened about their current circumstances, or simply the confidence a person can have that you love them.
People should see Jesus through our actions. However, just because people see Jesus through our actions, does this mean that there is no need to communicate with kind and loving words? Actions can only communicate so much. We need words to articulate the important stuff. If words were not important, then why would God use words to create the heavens and the earth? Why should we ever bother praying to God? Why would the entire third chapter of the book of James be devoted to controlling the tongue? Why did Jesus stand up and give the sermon on the mount? Why is Jesus called the Word?
Words Matter. They do more than convey information. The power of our words can actually destroy one’s spirit, even stir up hatred and violence. They not only exacerbate wounds, but inflict them directly. Of all the creatures on this planet, only man has the ability to communicate through spoken words. The power to use words is a unique and powerful gift from God.
Yes, actions matter, but so do words. Let’s remember this the next time we speak to an unbeliever, get in an argument with our spouse, or spend time with someone who is going through a turbulent season. It’s true that words aren’t enough if they aren’t backed up by actions, but loving actions coupled with hateful words are not any better. We need to remember that both our actions and our words should reflect the character of our Savior.