Dr. George Buttrick writes about the day when he sat at a high school commencement staring at the school’s motto in huge letters above the platform: “DEEDS, NOT WORDS.” He wanted so much to set it right and I’m with him this morning. Words are deeds. Words are tremendous, potent deeds for good and for bad. Words turn the tides of history, shatter human lives, encourage broken spirits, paint pictures, light lamps and extinguish them, and even start wars and end wars. Words are deeds. We deal so carelessly with them, tossing them around without thought of the harm or the good that they may do. Just think about it for a moment and you’ll see that words are deeds. “The great business of the Gospel is with words,” writes Paul Scherer. “Without words not even the loving-kindness of Jesus could have survived the hammer and the nails. All that he did would have died, had not some man’s words—a Matthew’s, or a Luke’s—come running to clothe it with life.” Words are deeds.
We throw our words around as if we need not concern ourselves about them. Words are casual, futile; it doesn’t matter what we do with them or to what level we let them sink. Let them be frivolous, vulgar, bitter, indifferent, they’re only words. Its deeds that count! Can we really say that in our present political situation? Words sting, words wound, words arouse, words act, words are never idle.
Even Jesus suggests that words are never idle (Matthew 12:36). Words carry tremendous power. Words carry on their back the same power, if not more, than any deed we might do. “The rhetoric is the candidate,” Dan Rather recently wrote, and my words and your words are “deeds” just as active, potent, destructive or constructive as any act we might do, and those words are us. Actions do not necessarily speak louder than words! Indeed, the “best deeds are words,” writes Elton Trueblood, and follows that up with, “It is not enough to give a cup of cold water; it is necessary also to tell why.”
Through the years I have heard many tell how grateful they were for something someone said to them in a moment of need. It was a word of encouragement or a word of hope. I have also heard stories of how something was said in the long ago, that hurt so deeply that the wound has never healed. Words have power. Words are deeds. We must learn to use them in love, rather than hate. We must use them not to bring others down, but to raise them up. I have a lot of work to do with my words!
|North Rim, Grand Canyon|