Our Actions reveal our Cruelty and our Charity

Pastor Matthew Best
4 min readMar 13

We have words and we have actions. Humans are pretty good at using words. We can master words for our own purposes. We can shape them. We can manipulate them. We can make them do all sorts of things. We can make them appear to be one thing, while they cover up something else. We can say one thing with words, while we do something else that completely contradicts the words that we just spoke. We know that the words can be empty.

But actions are much more difficult because we’re wired so we become uncomfortable when our actions contradict the core of who we really are. In fact, we won’t act counter to who we really are. That’s why if you really want to know what someone really believes, watch them, don’t bother to listen to them. They will tell you all sorts of things. But words can be manipulated. It’s the actions that can’t.

If you want to know what people really believe, pay attention to the what they do. Watch how they treat others.

It’s not an all or nothing type of thing of course. But there is a spectrum that we are all on. At one end of the spectrum is cruelty and the other is charity. Cruelty can be defined as action with intent to cause pain and suffering of others. Charity can be defined as action with intent to ease pain and suffering of others. Those are simple definitions, but for our purposes here, they work. Throughout life, we move back and forth along this spectrum, sliding along it. It’s a slippery spectrum. Our words slide along it as well and it’s a beautiful thing when our words and our actions are in alignment, but that’s often a rare moment. Our words are often more aspirational, while our actions are more practical in nature. Not always, of course.

As Christians, we go and worship God. We offer praise and worship to the Almighty, saying all sorts of wonderful things. We listen to amazing words that talk about the image of God in humanity. We hear about love of neighbor and enemy. These words certainly fall on the charity end of the spectrum. But that’s not in all churches.

There are plenty of churches in which God is a wrathful judge, full of hatred and anger, ready to spite and condemn. Worshippers hear about condemnation of a whole range of people. How truly sad that is. Where is the Good News in any of that? Who is set free in that kind of message? The words spoken are based on fear of hell, anger, division, wrath, and ultimately cruelty towards others. No wonder the actions that come…

Pastor Matthew Best

My name is Matthew Best. I’m an ELCA (Lutheran) pastor who attempts to translate church and churchy stuff into everyday language.