There are undoubtedly many things in life which are far easier said than done. The path of words is often much easier to take than that of action. But if words are not backed up by action, they can be empty and useless.
Jesus had much to say about this very thing: “Anyone who sets aside one of the least of these commands and teaches others accordingly, will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven.”1
When I was a kid, I took great pleasure in correcting and preaching to my family and friends. But most of the time, they had the last laugh, since I would often turn right around and do the exact opposite of what I was telling them. I was told more than once, “You need to learn to take your own advice.”
One Christmas season when I was about nine, my classmates and I were practicing a song for an upcoming Christmas program. Since it was meant to be a special surprise for those who would see it, we were not to tell anyone about it. I repeatedly reminded my classmates of this. But one day, in front of the people who were going to be our future audience, I started telling someone all about the song. One of the boys piped up, “Why did you tell us over and over to keep quiet about it if you can’t keep quiet yourself?” And they all roared with laughter.
As embarrassing as this was for me, it served as my first big lesson about “walking my talk.”
Bragging is another thing that can turn people off—especially if nothing is done to give credence to it. When I first started composing songs in my early teens, I constantly bragged about this new “talent” of mine. But when asked to actually play my song for other people, I always chickened out and refused. My mother gave me some good advice. “If you’re not willing to let people hear your songs, then quit bragging about them.”
Jesus illustrated the importance of backing up what we say with our actions in His classic parable of the two sons.
“There was a man who had two sons. He went to the first and said, ‘Son, go and work today in the vineyard.’ ‘I will not,’ he answered, but later he changed his mind and went. Then the father went to the other son and said the same thing. He answered, ‘I will go, sir,’ but he did not go.”2
Although the eldest son verbally disobeyed in the beginning, he later had a change of heart and did his father’s bidding. The second son’s promise to obey his father turned out to be worthless, because he didn’t keep it.
John tells us in his first epistle, “Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.”3
When I was 14, I got to know a dear woman of faith who, at the time, was battling cancer and not expected to live much longer. I accompanied my dad on a quick visit to the hospital she was staying at. Since this was my first time to come face to face with someone so ill, I felt unsure of what to say or do. So, other than the initial greetings, I said nothing as I sat by her bedside holding her hand. I later berated myself for not attempting to be a bit more expressive and communicative.
By a miracle, this woman pulled through and is still alive today. The last time we discussed that hospital visit, I apologized for being silent the whole time. She replied, “Don’t worry. You did the right thing. All the other folks who came by to visit me would constantly bombard me with advice on what to eat and what not to eat. Though I knew they meant well, I was growing tired of their constant input. When you came to see me that day, your silence was a comfort and a relief as you sat there just holding my hand.”
The formula to ensuring your words match your deeds and shining God’s light to those around you is simple: Walk your talk. Be sure of your convictions and principles—and daily put them into action.
As the Steven Curtis Chapman song goes:
Well, you can run with the big dogs
You can fly with the eagle
You can jump through all the hoops
And climb the ladder to the top
But when it all comes down
You know it all comes down to the walk.4
Let’s do some walking!
- Matthew 5:19 NIV
- Matthew 21:28–30 NIV
- 1 John 3:18 NIV
- “The Walk,” by Steven Curtis Chapman