Posted by: Omar C. Garcia | February 20, 2009

Clothed in Rhetoric

   “Many a man proclaims his own loyalty,
   But who can find a trustworthy man?”
   • Proverbs 20:6

   There is something about us that finds comfort in rhetoric. Rhetoric, after all, can be used to make up what is lacking in both our characters and careers. Like the paints of an artist, rhetoric can be used to create an image of us that is not quite the same as what we truly are. Like a cosmetic, rhetoric can be used to hide almost any blemish and fool almost anyone who has not lived with us out of the public eye. Like a salve, rhetoric can dull the pain of our hurts and make us feel better about our failures. Like a drug, rhetoric can numb us to the guilt of things done or left undone. There is power in rhetoric. A few well-chosen words can help us to rewrite our own history and redefine the ordinary events of our lives with greater significance.

   The writer of Proverbs understood the power of rhetoric. Through observation, and perhaps personal experience, he learned how people can use words to promote themselves. He also came to understand that those who toot their own horns are a dime a dozen, but that it is not always easy to find a real musician! His observations led him to these conclusions.

   First, performance is better than promises. Talk is cheap, but a man’s record speaks. It is better to perform than to promise. A man who performs well does not have to use words to either defend or promote himself. Proverbs 25:14 declares, “Like clouds and wind without rain is a man who boasts of his gifts falsely.”

   Second, being is better than boasting. What we are speaks louder than what we say. Peter boasted of his loyalty to Christ, but when it came time to actually be loyal to Christ, he failed.

   Third, humility is better than hot-air. Hot air rises. And those who are full of hot air usually have their heads in the clouds. They are always ready to promote themselves even at the expense of others. They are never short for words about themselves. François de La Rochefoucauld said, “Conceit causes more conversation than wit.” Humility, on the other hand, is heavy. It keeps your feet firmly anchored to the ground. Humble people can be honest about themselves and their shortcomings. They have no need to make themselves out to be something they are not.

   God listens to what we say. However, according to the Bible, He has never been impressed by pride or hot-air. Jesus told a parable about a proud Pharisee who pompously proclaimed his righteousness in the temple  (Luke 18:9-14). God was not impressed by the man or by his righteous rhetoric. While we can fool others with our words, we can never fool God. After all, He knows what we really look like when we are not clothed in our own words.

• • • • •

Written in August 1994 | San Antonio, Texas


Responses

  1. Thank you very much for the posts!
    I am blessed to learn from here.

    Mortuza
    Bangladesh


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