Talk vs. Action

Things probably did not go as planned for Joseph, the earthly father of Jesus.

  • He probably did not intend on having to try and explain to his friends and family why his fiancée was pregnant even though they had not slept together.
  • He probably did not plan on marrying her anyway, but having to put off the honeymoon for a few months.
  • He probably did not plan to pick up his new family and move them to a foreign country for an unknown period of time.
  • He probably did not intend to move to Galilee upon his return from Egypt instead of going back to his old home in Judea.

Yet through all of this, there is no record of Joseph ever complaining. And while he might have had a reason to brag after going through all of those things on behalf of the baby Jesus, there is no record of him bragging either.

Actually, there is no record of Joseph saying anything. At all. Apparently Joseph was a man who demonstrated his faith and his righteousness primarily through actions instead of just words.

These days we have a saying that someone is “all bark and no bite,” or “all talk and no action.” But for Joseph, a better description would have been “all action and no talk.” His words appear to have been few, but his behavior was honorable in every way.

How do we respond when we encounter various unplanned or difficult scenarios? Do we spend our efforts complaining, or do we let our actions do the talking by behaving in a way that is honorable despite the difficulty of the situation?

Consider this passage from James 1:

“This you know, my beloved brethren. But everyone must be quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger; for the anger of man does not achieve the righteousness of God. Therefore, putting aside all filthiness and all that remains of wickedness, in humility receive the word implanted, which is able to save your souls. But prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks at his natural face in a mirror; for once he has looked at himself and gone away, he has immediately forgotten what kind of person he was. But one who looks intently at the perfect law, the law of liberty, and abides by it, not having become a forgetful hearer but an effectual doer, this man will be blessed in what he does.”

Joseph was a prime example of one who was quick to hear, slow to speak, and slow to get angry. He was also a prompt doer of God’s will as opposed to someone who likes to talk a lot about how things ought to be without actually living how he ought to live.

Whether or not anyone notices, and whether or not the situation is exactly how you have always wanted it to be, will you be a doer of righteousness simply because it is the right thing to do?

Life is Not Fair

My fifth grade teacher used to tell us all that time, “the only person who gets to decide your future is YOU,” and “YOU are the one who determines whether or not you are happy and successful in life.”

Even at that age, something just did not seem exactly right about what she was saying. I knew enough about my own life and the lives of those around me to know that life is not at all fair, and a lot of the things that can hurt us deeply may not be under our control.

The Bible acknowledges this, too. Was it fair, when in 2 Samuel 11, Uriah’s death was secretly orchestrated by King David, who had his eye on Uriah’s wife? What about in Genesis 37-40 when Joseph was thrown into a pit, or sold into slavery, or framed for rape, or forgotten about to waste away in prison? What about in Joshua 7 when thirty-six men lost there lives at Ai because of a sin that Achan had committed in the previous battle at Jericho?

Yet in the midst of all of the unfairness, the Bible offers hope, and not despair.

Romans 12:19 quotes Deuteronomy 32:35 in reminding us that God is aware of everything that goes on, and He will settle all accounts in the end, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay, says the Lord.”

Exodus 22:21-23 reminds us that he sees and cares about mistreatment, “You shall not wrong a stranger or oppress him, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt. You shall not afflict any widow or orphan. If you afflict him at all, and if he does cry out to Me, I will surely hear his cry.”

Psalm 68:5-6 assures us that he cares for the downtrodden: “A father of the fatherless and a judge for the widows, Is God in His holy habitation. God makes a home for the lonely; He leads out the prisoners into prosperity, Only the rebellious dwell in a parched land.”

Not only does the Bible assure us that God sees that which is unfair in our world; it also reminds us to stop using our misfortune as an excuse, but rather to get back up and take responsibility for those things that we are able to control.

In Joshua 7:7-9, Joshua was in great despair because all of Israel was suffering and he did not know why. “Alas, O Lord God, why did You ever bring this people over the Jordan, only to deliver us into the hand of the Amorites, to destroy us? If only we had been willing to dwell beyond the Jordan! O Lord, what can I say since Israel has turned their back before their enemies? For the Canaanites and all the inhabitants of the land will hear of it, and they will surround us and cut off our name from the earth. And what will You do for Your great name?”

God’s response was powerful: “Rise up! Why is it that you have fallen on your face?” He then gave Joshua specific instructions on how to take charge and be proactive about the situation, rather than whining.

Maybe that was what my teacher was trying to tell us. No, life is not at all fair. No, we cannot control what other people do. Just as people mistreated Jesus, they will mistreat us. But we can still take responsibility for our own actions, and we can go out in the strength of the LORD to do good in His name.