We've all heard the quote "Preach the gospel always; when necessary, use words" attributed to St. Francis of Assisi. But did he actually say it? And regardless of whether he did or didn't, should we celebrate this quote?
Mark Galli, senior managing editor at Christianity Today, answers these questions in a helpful article that can be read here.
Here are a few excerpts:
I've heard the quote once too often. It's time to set the record straight—about the quote, and about the gospel.
Francis of Assisi is said to have said, "Preach the gospel at all times; when necessary, use words."
This saying is carted out whenever someone wants to suggest that Christians talk about the gospel too much, and live the gospel too little. Fair enough—that can be a problem. Much of the rhetorical power of the quotation comes from the assumption that Francis not only said it but lived it.
The problem is that he did not say it. Nor did he live it. And those two contra-facts tell us something about the spirit of our age....
"Preach the gospel; use words if necessary" goes hand in hand with a postmodern assumption that words are finally empty of meaning. It subtly denigrates the high value that the prophets and Jesus and Paul put on preaching. Of course we want our actions to match our words as much as possible. But the gospel is a message, news about an event and a person upon which the history of the planet turns....
That being said, a better saying (which you can attribute to anyone you like) is this: Preach the gospel—use actions when necessary; use words always.