Ignore Words–Watch What They Do

4 07 2014

Watch What They DoA number of years ago I happened to be listening to an internet talk-show where the host had an expert on Russia as his guest. This Russian geopolitical expert—Jeff Nyquist, for those interested—told his host that Russia continues to produce thermonuclear weapons in the post-Soviet era even though its public position is one of disarmament. Nyquist then added one of the wisest maxims that I have ever heard. “When you look at Russia and its leaders,” he said, “don’t listen to what they say; watch what they do.”

“Don’t listen to what they say; watch what they do.”

This has become a principle and continuous reality check for my wife and I when evaluating all the stuff we hear as we live our lives among six billion other people as well as evaluating where we’re at ourselves.

Talk is cheap. Politicians and those trying to achieve political ends are known for making great promises that folks with even modest intelligence know will never be acted on in any sincere way. And no cynicism here. When you evaluate the current state of our economy and the deficit and then hear the promises of financial improvement and stimulus programs by our leaders, you can see that the promises are simply air. I appreciated our stimulus check. But where did the money come from?

This precept of not listening to what people say but rather watching what they’re doing can be either encouraging or demoralizing. Here are two of the most powerful and life-giving statements a person can utter:

“I love you.”

“I am a Christian (or a Jew, or a Muslim, or a Sikh)”

Conversely, here two of the most useless and demoralizing things a human being can say with their mouth:

“I love you.”

“I am a Christian (or a Jew, or a Muslim, or a Sikh)”

Oh the power of paradox. All the difference in the world based on one simple, observable, quantifiable factor: Is the utterance backed up with action?

Or is it just idle talk?

This is a great inventory tool for looking over your life as well as evaluating reality as you mix with the human race.

For example:

If I say I believe in being a public voice for change but never write to a congressman, senator, the President or some other civic or governmental leader, my actions betray what I really believe. I may be enamored with the idea of being involved, but I don’t really believe in being involved. If I did, I’d act on it.

If I say I believe in helping the poor and then look over my checkbook, my possessions and my time and find I have spent all my discretionary income on videos, sports, and other forms of entertainment, expensive food, toys and other things, then I might believe in helping the poor in theory, as an article of faith in my creed (a necessary and useless thing, a creed), but I don’t really believe in helping the poor.

If I say I’m a Christian (a “little Christ”) and believe in Jesus Christ and then practice a lifestyle contrary to the way and teachings of Jesus and am really no different than the unregenerate world that hates Jesus (John 7:7 – the world hates the real Jesus because he reproves it of its evil), then I really don’t believe in Jesus. I may believe in the concept of following Jesus, but I really don’t believe in Jesus. One of my earliest Bible teachers called that “practical atheism.” James tells us that such faith will not save anyone (James 2:17-26).

You can use this evaluative tool in any area and it works just great. And if you are sincere, you will come away humbled. The bottom line is this (if you don’t get it now, you’ll surely see it is true when you stand at the Judgment Seat before God): What you do is what you really believe.

A.W. Tozer once wrote an editorial entitled “Words Without Deeds: The Vice of Religion.” In another place, he wrote this: “The deadening effect of religious make-believe upon the human mind is beyond all describing.” We have numerous scriptures that tell us that God will judge us according to our works , not our aspirations (e.g. Revelation 20:12-13). But we will also be held accountable for every idle word we say (Matthew 12:36-37 – the word idle here means “non-working”). If our deeds don’t match our creeds, we will suffer condemnation. Jesus promised.

So what then?

Don’t say something you’re not sincerely prepared to back with action.
Better yet, say little or nothing and let your works speak for themselves. God says, in effect, “Show me the money!”
When you back up your words with deeds, it creates credibility, which is priceless.
Inventory your own life, not just others lives who happen to intersect with yours. It’s humbling and tough at times, but it is reality.

So, remember: What you do is what you really believe. And with people, as well as with ourselves, don’t listen to what they say; watch what they do.

“So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.” (James 2:17)

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