Do actions speak louder than words?
But do actions speak louder than our thoughts?
Think about it. Where do our behaviors actually come from? They aren’t all just instincts. It can be argued that some actions might be considered fight or flight. But when you really look at it, is there actually an action that we take that doesn’t say something about how we think?
Our actions come from our thoughts, our heart and our soul. Our inside thoughts determine our outside actions. We’re like tea bags. Put us in hot water and you’ll see what comes out.
On tonight’s The Walking Dead, the episode explores the question as to why we do what we do. Why is Daryl mopping up after Negan’s messes? Is he just waiting for his moment, or his he falling under Negan’s spell? (I have faith that it’s the former) Is the note that is slipped under his door a test or is it an opportunity? Either way, what Daryl does will betray what he is thinking. Or why doesn’t Carl bash Negan’s head in when he is standing behind him with Lucille? We know that Carl is willing to kill two of Negan’s men in the blink of his eye. But why does he stand down for the rest of the episode? Can we even know what he is thinking?
But probably the best conversation about this topic happens in the car with Father Gabriel (the axiomatic Christian minister as the world sees it) and Spencer as they are supposed to be gathering supplies for the Saviors. Spencer takes a moment to ask Gabriel a topical theological question.
Spencer: Hating somebody… is that a sin?
Father Gabriel: No. Well, not necessarily. Thoughts are just thoughts. It’s our actions that matter in the end.
Spencer: I hate Rick.
The conversation continues with a rather hilarious insult from Father Gabriel, someone who used to be equally as annoying and whiny as Spencer. But, as a fellow member of the cloth (I am a senior pastor), I was quite a bit disappointed in Gabriel’s major misunderstanding of the nature of sin. Of course, it would be smarter to take spiritual advice from a telephone pole than from Father Gabriel, but in this case I think that he ventured onto one of the moral and spiritual positions of the show. It could easily be argued that the writers of this show believe that what we do is more important than what we think.
But as a Christian, I was very disturbed by this “spiritual advice” because it was almost exactly the opposite of what the bible teaches. Throughout the gospels, you run into many characters who believe very much that actions are more important than thoughts. However, these people are the people who Jesus opposes more than anyone else in all four gospels. The people that believe this are the teachers of the law, the religious snobs of the day. And Jesus constantly puts them in their place for thinking that their pious actions somehow trump their rotten hearts.
Perhaps nowhere in the bible does Jesus illustrate this more than in the sermon on the mount in the book of Matthew. Here he is attacking the teachers of the law directly when he explains that they seem to completely misunderstand the rules that they have chosen to live their lives by. They are experts in the law of Moses, particularly the ten commandments which we find in the book of Exodus in the Old Testament. However Jesus is quick to show them that they, not unlike Father Gabriel, have it backwards.
Take a look at Matthew 5:21-22 (NLT).
21 “You have heard that our ancestors were told, ‘You must not murder. If you commit murder, you are subject to judgment.’22 But I say, if you are even angry with someone, you are subject to judgment! If you call someone an idiot, you are in danger of being brought before the court. And if you curse someone, you are in danger of the fires of hell.
What Jesus is saying here is remarkable and unprecedented. The teachers of the law know that one of the ten commandments says that you should not murder. Presumably they have had a lot of discussion as to what constitutes murder. Was it self-defense? Was it justifiable homicide? As a matter of fact, the Pharisees would eventually write entire volumes of teachings that explain in detail how to act in accordance with the Ten Commandments.
But the problem with their interpretation of the Ten Commandments is that their focus is solely on their own actions, not their thoughts. They would go to great lengths to make sure that their actions were justifiable, but consequently they had completely ignored the spirit of those great rules given to Moses on Mt. Sinai. They didn’t understand that the law was about how they think, not about what they do.
In this passage Jesus is saying that anger is really the same thing as murder in God’s eyes. The reason why? God knows our hearts. He knows that when we see another person as a fool, we have already committed murder in our hearts. When we call someone an idiot we are showing everyone through our actions that we think that these people are much less important than we are. This doesn’t mean that actions are unimportant (read the book of James). It just means that the things that we do are a reflection of how we think.
At the end of Jesus’ sermon, he talks about how good trees bear good fruit and bad trees bear bad fruit. What he means is that our actions are like fruit and our hearts are like the trees that bear them. If we genuinely take the time to guard our hearts and become the type of person who sincerely learns to think with compassion and caring, ultimately our actions will show it. According to Jesus, thoughts are not just thoughts – they are the fruit of the heart that spawned them.
SEASON 7, EPISODE 7 DISCUSSION QUESTIONS:
1) Rosita practically bullies Eugene into making a bullet for her. Do you think that he made the right decision? Why or why not?
2) What do you think Carl’s plan was when he stayed in the truck after Jesus jumped? Do you think he thought this one out?
3) What plans do you think Negan has for Carl? Do you think that they are similar to the plans he has for Daryl?
4) When Negan is holding Judith on the porch, do you think he knows who that baby is? What do you think he is trying to do?
5) When father Gabriel says that “thoughts are just thoughts”, do you think that he might be saying this to justify some of his own behavior in the past? Why or why not?
6) Do you think that there is any thought that you have that doesn’t result in some kind of behavior (good or bad)? Why or why not?
7) When we try to monitor our behavior without monitoring our thoughts, what are we doing? (hint: it is about honesty)
8) In what ways can we guard our hearts? Do you think that Jesus can become an important part of this? How?
9) Jesus finishes His sermon on the mount with a famous parable about two builders, one who builds on sand and the other who builds on rock (Matt 7:24-27). In the story, the house on the sand is washed away while the one on the rock stands firm. The point of the parable is that a relationship with Jesus creates a solid foundation in our life. What do you think that parable teaches us about how we can guard our hearts against sinful thoughts?
10) In what ways can you learn to guard your heart against sinful thoughts?
Thom McKee Jr. is a husband, father, pastor… and film geek (and brother of Jonathan McKee). Thom lives in Northern California with his wife and two kids.