Do As I Say, Not As I Do?–Why Your Actions Speak Louder Than Words

David Hannah

My car was recently in the shop, and I had to get a ride with a dear friend to pick it up. It was my first time back in the car with him (or anyone) in quite some time, and he drove quite a bit slower than normal. When I asked about it, he said he had become a more careful driver over the past few months. He mentioned, “My son just turned 15 and is about to get his permit.” Anticipating his own son driving, my friend knew his every move would be watched. Every parent knows we can tell our children to follow our words, but it is our actions that have the most impact.


Our words speak.


In this age of constant connection and social media, our words are everywhere. We have the opportunity to weigh in on every issue, debate, and tragedy. And, we often feel it’s our duty to do so. We shout about what Jesus would do, we tell others what they should do, and we freely offer “thoughts and prayers.” But many times, we don’t actually do anything ourselves.


Our actions speak louder.


As the old saying goes, our actions speak louder than our words (and, our inaction speaks even louder). We tell the world of our faith, but when what we do tells a different story than what we say. Our “doing” is what people listen to. The Bible addresses this reality time and time again. John urges us to love not only in thoughts and words, but also with our hands and our feet (1 John 3:19). James implores those that follow Christ to not only hear His words, but to actually do them (James 1:22). He even takes it a step further by indicating that our actions are the litmus test of our faith (James 2:26).


With that incredibly uncomfortable verse, James gets to the heart of the matter and forces us to ask the unpleasant question: If what we do doesn’t match up with what we believe, do we really believe it at all?


Our life must imitate Christ.


Jesus Christ, fully divine and fully human, was the greatest teacher to walk the earth. His words carry more weight than the sum total of knowledge contained at every university in history, yet even He recognized it was His actions that taught us even more. In the tenth chapter of John, Jesus responds to the gathered crowd demanding He tell them if He is the Messiah. He says, “I have told you time and again, but you don’t believe my words. Look at what I do, and you will know the truth.” (John 10:22-39 paraphrased).


My friend can tell his son how to drive a car, but his son will learn much more by watching him drive. We can tell the world the gospel, but they will not listen if we do not live it. And once we put our faith into action, we become disciples who imitate Christ and show others how they can do the same.