COLUMN: To all the things I said I would do

Published 10:28 am Monday, April 29, 2024

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Maybe years ago, you saw the movie. It still runs often on some channel or another. 

I’m talking about a 2013 American romantic drama based on the 1925 novel The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald. It features Leonardo DiCaprio as Jay Gatsby. At one point, he is shown raising a glass while saying, “To all the things I said I would do… eventually.” 

Similarly, for those active on social media we are used to seeing a famous “Kermit The Frog drinking tea” meme. There stands that well-known Sesame Street “Muppet” frog next to a window. 

These days, that photo has been accompanied by hundreds of different captions, representing those making empty promises. We use other sayings. 

On the windy plains of Texas, when ranchers want to describe someone who is all talk and no action, they’ll say someone is “All hat, no cattle.” On the streets of Atlanta, that same person might be described as “All flash, no cash.” In football, a gigantic lineman who just doesn’t have what football requires of you is said to “Look like Tarzan, but he plays like Jane.”

Of course, we say this in ways we are more accustomed to. We might say, “Actions speak louder than words” or, “Put your money where your mouth is.” Someone might even observe that “Talk is cheap.”

In 1 John 3: 16-24, we hear it put this way. “And this is his commandment, that we should believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ and love one another, just as he has commanded us. All who obey his commandments abide in him, and he abides in them. And by this, we know that he abides in us, by the Spirit that he has given us.” 

There we are. If you like things put quickly and clearly, this is your stretch of scripture in verses 23-24. It’s a succinct mandate that reminds us there’s more to faith than a one-time decision. Our faith is supposed to be transformational, not just a means to salvation. 

You see, we can say we’re saved. We can talk about what we believe. Sooner or later, though, everyone around us gets a chance to gauge for themselves whether we’re just talking or whether Jesus is truly in us. 

Earlier in verses 16-18, we also heard it expressed this way. “We know love by this, that he laid down his life for us—and we ought to lay down our lives for one another. How does God’s love abide in anyone who has the world’s goods and sees a brother or sister in need and yet refuses help? Little children, let us love, not in word or speech, but in truth and action.”

This is how Jesus said we would live and act and do if we were truly saved and transformed. Talk truly is cheap. Put even more succinctly, no one wants to hear about you being saved or about the church you go to if they can tell you don’t give a rip about them. 

The irony is, in over 30 years now of doing what I do for a living I’ve known a lot of talkers. I’ve known Christians who couldn’t speak without peppering their language with a bunch of gobblety-gook “God talk” but then were absent when it came time to actually serve in some way. 

Talk is cheap. I’ve known slick people who would identify with the church when it suited their purposes for advancement of some kind. Usually, they were filling out a job application as it asked about “Community Involvement” or in a biography for some kind of award or promotion they were applying for. But when the church needed them or their contributions or even their consistent attendance, they were nowhere to be found. 

Talk is cheap. I’ve been around the mean-spirited fundamentalist crowd. Those people for whom getting the whole world saved is supposedly important, but if you squeezed them tight, you couldn’t drip an ounce of “Jesus” out of them as you observe their ethics, morals and cultural participation. 

Talk is cheap. When you or I accepted Jesus, there were a lot of things we said we would do. 

We know love and hate, love and selfishness, love and indifference, love and hypocrisy, love and when someone’s just talking. 

So does everyone around us. So does God.

Dr. Charles Qualls is senior pastor at Franklin Baptist Church. Contact him at 757-562-5135.