Words Are Cheap
Jesus was frequently asked by religious leaders to prove his divinity, but he customarily responded to their inquisitions with a parable. When the proud were brandishing their veneered spirituality, without giving any credence to their arrogant religiosity, Jesus exposed their pretension. He denuded the hypocrisy of a doctrinal dialectic.
In the Parable of Two Sons, Jesus dramatized that our faith is to be proved by our actions, not words. One son said the right words but did not follow up with the action, while the other son said the wrong words but followed up with the correct action. Through this short story, Jesus obliterated the foundation of the archaic, judgmental, and oppressive legalistic Judaism of his time.
I find it interesting that when Jesus asked which of the two sons pleased God, the Pharisees knew the correct answer. They were so bedazzled by their knowledge of their religious laws they did not comprehend the message; their ears were open, but their hearts were closed. The religious leaders were so enraptured by their own wisdom they could not see that their own words condemned them.
Many conservative evangelicals believe that the correct “religion” is about repeating the right phrase; they believe saying certain words in a certain way “saves” people. They actually believed that people have to express their faith verbally in order to be accepted by God. Of course, I usually ask if it had to be in English with a particular regional accent.
Jesus enounced that faith God is pleased with is demonstrated in action, not doctrine. Doctrine is a set of words expressing a particular way of highlighting a unique social norm of a certain period in history. They are not the end in themselves but are only meant to guide the people’s expression of faith relevant to their lives. The biblical command to “not judge” and “love your neighbor” is timeless.
For the past 50 years, we have lived through the technology revolution that began with the race to the moon. During the pandemic, technological advances enabled us to live and work in our bedrooms but still connected to the world. In the world of communicating through emojis and abbreviations, words, especially full sentences, have lost their importance.
During the pandemic, we had a large number of people come out and serve in our food bank ministry, but not many from our congregation. Most of the people were not involved in any organized religious groups, but they faithfully served in our ministry.
God is not interested in our words but our faith in action. To believe in God means living our daily lives with intentional actions that demonstrate the grace and mercy of God. Let us be people, not of cheap words, but of the priceless acts of faith.