Occasionally Use Words

Occasionally Use Words

There is a quote I like, one that I go back to often, that says:

“Preach the gospel always. Occasionally use words.”

This quote has been incorrectly attributed to Francis of Assisi, and others, and honestly, I don’t know where it came from and don’t need to know. It speaks to me even if it is made up!

I love words. The Bible’s words comfort me like nothing else. But this quote is a caution sign for me, especially as it comes to providing comfort for other people. I think we can quote the Bible at someone too often. I know the words of the Bible well but there are times when I need comfort from another human being. I need a hug, someone to simply say a prayer for or with me. I don’t need to be “preached to.”

Who is wise and understanding among you? Let them show it by their good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom.
James 3:13

I feel that people that do this to me have the best of intentions. They are faithful people. They want to help me feel better, so they choose to quote scripture to me as if I don’t know the words myself. And when they do, it feels like a rebuke, when all I’ve asked for is friendship, comfort, understanding…

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And if I, a believer for half a century, feels this way, I can only imagine how the non-believer feels when someone (me!) does it to them. So this quote about preaching the gospel by my actions really speaks to me. It allows me to take a moment and see how I’m coming across. There are so many times I want to quote scripture and when I pause and think about it, I’m offered another solution by the holy spirit, one that is often simply listening, giving a hand, or making eye contract to make that person feel heard.

When I feel let down by someone I had wished just provided me some comfort or understanding, it makes me think of my own life. How often do I do this to someone else? My prayer for today:

Lord, help me listen to you and be the light you want me to be. Help me provide friendship and understanding so that people can see the meaning of your words carried out in my actions. Amen.


Cherie Burbach About Cherie Burbach

Cherie Burbach is the founder of Putting on the New. She is a poet, mixed media artist, and freelance writer. She's written for About.com, NBC/Universal, Match.com, Christianity Today, and more. Her latest book is: Art and Faith: Mixed Media Art With a Faith-Filled Message. For more, check out her website.

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