Pragmatism’s Death by a Thousand Words
“The pen is mightier than the sword.” So wrote English author Edward Bulwer-Lytton in his 1839 play Richelieu. But what happens when we’re drowning in ink? Pragmatism is too often lost in a verbal down pour.
Being pragmatic often has a bad rap. As a defining philosophy, pragmatism is, of course, flawed. The end does not justify the means. Even a godly goal is not justified by adopting a spurious strategy to achieve it. Abe’s pragmatism was none too smart in calling Hagar to his tent.
However, in our day and age, I don’t think we’re over doing the action; rather, we’re in danger of talking ourselves to death. In his second letter, Luke suggests a crucial pattern to the way Jesus worked; he explains, “all that Jesus began both to do and teach” (Acts 1:1). Jesus taught off the back of His doing; His message had weight because His deeds had clout; His words were credible because His works were visible.
“But we don’t want to get into a works mentality,” is usually the first retort to such comments.
You’re right, for sure. Yet, it seems to me that in a massive knee-jerk reaction to avoiding “dead works,” which is important of course, we may have forgotten the enormous impact of “good works.” We are certainly not saved by works, but we are saved for works (Ephesians 2:8-10).
James warned us against the deception of words without works (James 1:22). He hauntingly stated that without works, our faith’s in the morgue (James 2:17). Paul spoke of faith-pretenders, who “profess to know God, but in works deny Him” (Titus 1:16). He then urged, “This is a faithful saying, and these things I want you to affirm constantly, that those who have believed in God should be careful to maintain good works” (Titus 3:8).
The Master said it best: “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:16). Our good works shine God’s light on others; love-motivated pragmatism illuminates this dull and dark world. Let’s roll up our sleeves and maintain good works, without which our words seem empty.
Good works have merit in themselves, but also build an integral platform for sharing good news. As Francis of Assisi insisted, “Preach the gospel at all times, and if necessary use words”.