Words Without Deeds

Posted on August 25, 2011


Last Friday I drove down to Tuscaloosa for a concert by My Morning Jacket, Neko Case and Phosphorescent. Proceeds from the show went to the United Way Tuscaloosa tornado relief fund.

Before the show, the musicians toured the path of the tornado and saw the destruction first hand. Neko Case posted this photo via Twitter. It’s a scrap of writing she found amidst the rubble.


Nine words convey a powerful message that extends far beyond a reference to assisting tornado victims.

“Words are worthless unless deeds are wedded to them.”

Benjamin Franklin believed in the power of people helping people. He wrote at length in his autobiography how he came to develop this philosophy and how he sought to exemplify what he defined as the 13 moral virtues through his actions. As a young man, he established a framework by which he could strive toward perfecting the 13 moral virtues. His approach included asking this question each morning: “What good can I do today”? and this question each evening: “What good have I done today?” Ben Franklin readily acknowledged that he could not attain perfection but he never gave up on the philosophy of living in a way that benefited others as much as self.  Ben believed that a person could do well by doing good for others.


Neko Case performs at Tuscaloosa Amphitheatre, August 19, 2011, Kelly Hogan on backing vocals

Two nights before the concert, I was at a small missions conference in Tuscumbia, Alabama to hear my brother and several others speak briefly about their missions work. Each of the speakers shared examples of serving the physical, social and emotional needs of individuals in their locales—they didn’t limit their calling to spiritual matters only.

“Words are worthless unless deeds are wedded to them.”


Neko Case, Tuscaloosa Amphitheatre, Aug. 19, 2011, Kelly Hogan on backing vocals

The main speaker that night, a pastor from a large church in Memphis, then delivered a sermon. He ended with the Pulitizer-prize winning photo of the young child in Sudan who was crawling toward a relief tent, as a vulture watched and waited. Instead of calling on Christians to take actions to serve the physical needs of starving children throughout the world, the preacher used the image of a starving child to talk about spiritual vultures.

“Words are worthless unless deeds are wedded to them.”


Phosphorescent at Tuscaloosa Amphitheatre, August 19, 2011

That broke my heart. Yes, there are vultures that seek to devour the spirit and soul of humans, regardless of race, nationality, beliefs or gender. Addictions, envy, hate, distrust, revenge are spiritual vultures. But we are called to love our neighbors as ourselves and care for others as we would care for ourselves. Jesus used the parable of the Good Samaritan to illustrate this point. The book of James (brother of Jesus) goes on at length that faith without works is dead and meaningless.

“Words are worthless unless deeds are wedded to them.


My Morning Jacket, August 19, 2011, Tuscaloosa Amphitheatre

Last Wednesday night I said a prayer that those who are starving physically would receive the food they need for life. And I prayed that the preacher would realize that it’s not enough to preach about spiritual salvation. We are called to be the hands and feet of Jesus in a world that has so many needs. And I prayed for the strength or resources or whatever that I need to do more to act for others, whether their need is physical hunger or something else.

Matthew 25: 35, 40: “For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me…..whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.”

“Words are worthless unless deeds are wedded to them.”

My Morning Jacket, Neko Case and Phosphorescent delivered inspired performances in Tuscaloosa on the night of August 19, 2011. And they raised a lot of money for the United Way’s Tuscaloosa tornado relief fund. I’m guessing that each act also won over some new fans and that will lead to more albums sales. I know that I plan to buy the MMJ albums that are missing from my library. And at least one album by Phosphorescent (I’m less familiar with their work, but I like what I heard). I already have everything by Neko Case. In other words, these musicians demonstrated the principle of doing well by doing good. And through the  monies they raised, many will receive food, shelter, clothing and other necessities of life.


NPR Music’s Story & Slideshow by Ann Powers about the musicians’ tour of storm path

NPR Music’s report on the Tuscaloosa concert with slide show