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Talk Is Not Always Cheap 09/05/2008

Saddleback forum

They can talk, but are their words
cheap, costly or valuable?


You have heard the phrase "talk is cheap" to refute someone's bold statements or promises. It emphasizes that it is one thing to say something, but another thing to do it.

A friend of mine used to say about Christians, "Too much talk, not enough walk." Clearly, we need to walk the talk. The Bible talks about being "doers" of the Word and not "hearers" only. Those who hold to traditional values rightly emphasize the expectation that people do what they say. To do otherwise is a form of crafty deception, whether intentional or not.

For months, we have heard praise for Barak Obama's oratorical skills. He really is an effective communicator. Certainly, it is a great day when an African-American can rise from obscurity to become the Democrat's nominee for the highest office in the free world. It will be an even greater day when there is no trace of racism in any facet of our national affairs.

However, we suddenly have another great communicator in Governor Sarah Palin. Once again, history is being made as she becomes the first Republican woman to run for Vice President. Everyone is quite taken aback by her oratorical skill. She is an incredible communicator. Her timing, expressions, eye contact, pace, sincerity and clear conviction effectively comes through as she speaks.

Having been a public speaker for nearly 50 years, speaking to all sizes of groups in every setting on earth -- from offices, school rooms, gymnasiums, stadiums and coliseums to open fields and even the halls of Congress -- I have been told that I effectively communicate my heart and that people are inspired. For this, I am grateful. Since I understand the importance of clear communication, I have become observant of others and discovered that talk is not always cheap. Sometimes, in fact, it can be very expensive.

A slick salesman can manipulate and take advantage of unsuspecting listeners. Politicians have been guilty of saying things that prove to be anything but cheap. When politicians promise to provide certain needs, they do not always communicate the great cost.

Some of the economic pressure we are now feeling can easily be traced back to decisions made far before the current energy crisis, the attack on 9/11, the defensive buildup and the wars that followed. Regardless of your feelings on the war, it is not really the issue. Of course, it is costly and requires careful management, but the real problem is that people (especially those running for office) promise to provide every need without having the means to do so. Pile on congressional earmarks designed to gain political favor and everyone is encumbered. Those who provide jobs, buy products and pay the increased tax burden cannot keep up with wasteful spending.

Beware of those who say, "I am going to do it for you," and take very seriously those who say, "We must do it together." Promises to care for everyone's needs may not, in fact, be cheap. It may be unbearably expensive. Much of our national debt, through excessive spending, waste and "pork barrel" projects is directly attributable to expensive talk.

On the other hand, talk can oftentimes be very valuable. Sometimes what we hear can redirect our own personal lives, our families, our communities, our cities and even our nation in a most positive way. It is possible for talk to change the course of history. The Gettysburg Address, Lincoln's second inaugural address and other challenging speeches have had a profound effect on our country.

An effective minister impacts individual lives, changing not only the person, but also those they influence. I can certainly give credit to a number of people who communicated in such a way that the value of their words, their insight, the inspiration and instruction they offered totally changed and enriched my life. Talk of this nature can be incredibly valuable.

So the question is whether the words from the mouths of these two gifted orators -- Senator Obama and Governor Palin -- are valuable, cheap or terribly expensive. The value or cost of their words may be determined by the character of the speaker. We have all missed the mark, all have failed, but what lessons have been learned? What have they accomplished? What do their worldview and convictions reveal concerning the decisions they will likely make?

If there is a substitute for experience, it is certainly strength of character. We may not be perfect, but strong character can guide us in our responsibilities, whether in parenthood, leadership, business or the presidency. So while we rightly discuss, appreciate and even praise the effectiveness of these two powerful communicators, we must look beyond the rhetoric and weigh the cost or value of their words. And as we have considered one well-known phrase, may we never forget another: "Actions speak louder than words."

So this election cycle, be aware, be prayerful and be involved in this wonderful process of choosing our leaders. In many ways, our future depends on it.

Author: James Robison

Word Count: 810

About the author: James Robison is the founder and president of LIFE Outreach International, a Christian media ministry and mission relief organization. He and his wife, Betty, host of the television program Life Today; He has authored numerous books, including The Soul of a Nation, The Absolutes: Freedom's Only Hope and True Prosperity.

Media Contact: Randy Robison, editor at . Photo available upon request. Reprint rights granted with attribution for complete, unedited article. Revisions allowed only with approval.