The story is told (which is preacher speak for “I heard a great story, but I have no verification that it actually happened. Still, I like the point it makes) of a high wire artist who set up a wire across the Niagara River near the falls. He performed amazing feats going back and forth across the wire including taking a wheelbarrow loaded with sand from one side to the other. One of the onlookers shouted praise of the artist mentioning that he could do anything he wanted on the high wire. The artist paused and looked at the one who had shouted out. “Let me dump the sand out and give you a ride across the river,” he said. The onlooker looked horrified and then shrunk back into the crowd, declining the offer.
No matter what that person said, their actions in shrinking away from the free ride to the other side of the river revealed that they didn’t really believe that the high wire artist could do anything. Their actions spoke much louder than even their shouted words. We’ve all lived with the understanding to some degree that our actions speak louder than our words. For instance, I can tell my wife that I love her all day long, but, if I don’t show it by doing the things that need to be done around the house, the words don’t mean anything. Actions speak louder than words. Jesus had an issue with the Pharisees. He not only preached about the Kingdom of God, He showed it. They started quibbling about days of the week and what their oral tradition allowed on the Sabbath – but the actions of Jesus outweighed His magnificent teaching. “Some of the Pharisees said, ‘This man is not from God, for he does not keep the Sabbath.’ But others asked, ‘How can a sinner perform such signs?’ So they were divided.” (John 9:16)
The Pharisees knew how God worked. Of that one thing they were sure. I wouldn’t say that they had God and His work down to a mathematical formula, but they could have set up a box and made sure that people understood that God worked within those parameters. Anything in the box would be of God, anything outside the box would not be of God. Then Jesus came along. His teaching made it clear that He was Messiah and that He was God the Son. Pharisee Box blown apart. Jesus came not only teaching, but performing miraculous healings. Most of the ones we read about happened on the Sabbath and involved what fit the Pharisaical definition of work. Pharisee Box blown to smithereens. In the case that this passage deals with, Jesus made mud, put it on a blind guy’s eyes, and he was healed…on the Sabbath. Pharisee box destroyed. It divided the Pharisees even more. Some denying that He couldn’t be from God, because He did things on the Sabbath, others sputtering, “But blind man…healed! People not from God can’t do those things!”
James reminds us that people see our faith, our belief in God, by our actions. I’ve seen people who claim to believe in Jesus, but they never do anything that shows that following Jesus has made a difference in their lives. Perhaps I miss that, and I can guarantee that many people miss that in my life because of the timing of when they see me. That being said, our actions speak louder than our words. How can we tell people of the love of Jesus when all of our actions show hatred? How can we tell people about the grace of God while we fail to love and forgive them? If we truly believe in Jesus, we will be changed. We can never make ourselves good enough to follow Jesus, that’ why we need grace, but we can let God change us as we follow Jesus so that our actions will truly speak louder, and mean more to others, than our words. Steven Curtis Chapman reminds us of this in his song “What About the Change?” So, what about your change? What about your difference? What about grace? What about forgiveness?
Lord, let my life change so that when people hear or read my words, they know that I truly am with you.