“Actions speak louder than words.” “You can talk the talk, but can you walk the walk?” We have a number of phrases in the English language that point to the idea that ‘showing’ is better than just ‘telling’. Even Eliza Doolitte in the musical My Fair Lady sings to her would-be love, “words, words, words – I’m so sick of words…. If you’re in love, show me!”. And what do preschoolers and kindergartners have? Not just tell, but show and tell.
As a former educator, I also can’t help but think of learning about different learning styles. In developing lesson plans I was taught to consider the needs of visual, auditory, and kinesthetic learners. Some students learn best when they see something, others learn best by listening, and some by being able to move and do. When teaching, it was important to not just stand and lecture, but to give my students the opportunity to see visual representations, and to get their hands and bodies involved as well.
I’m pretty sure Jesus never enrolled in a course on educational theory, but as someone who bore the title rabbi (teacher) he incorporated telling and showing and doing into his lessons. He taught his disciples through sermons and parables, he showed them how to live out his teachings when he challenged temple leaders, shared meals with outsiders and “sinners”, and when he healed the sick and the broken. Jesus also taught by sending his disciples out to do the things he taught them to about all on their own.
All this causes me to pause and consider my own life and the way I ‘teach’ others about faith and what it means to be a disciple of Christ. My words matter, but they can not stand alone. They have to be matched by my actions, so that I can show others the meaning of my words. And I can encourage others to put it all into practice themselves, so that through hearing, seeing, and doing we can all take steps toward becoming more and more like Christ.