It has all too often been said that “a picture is worth a thousand words.” How many times have you heard this quote? How many times have you read it, appearing in words on Facebook status updates, underneath Instagram photos as a wordy tagline, written inside of that superb Hallmark card? Too many times.
I’m sure you know where I’m going with this. A statement as famous as this one, though popular and widespread, is only heard, known, or spoken through words. The aim of this popular notion is to favor images and pictures—what can be seen with the eye and captured in a single, still moment—over words. But ironically, such a statement can only be known through the ear (and through the eye visually catching it in written text and then reimagining it inside the mind, being yet again heard from within).
So, words are still worth more than pictures. Though a picture may need words, words never need pictures. They can stand alone, and yet never be alone, in the images they draw.
This discussion is important for us as Christians because Jesus came to us as the Word made flesh. In his first letter, the apostle John writes these words about Jesus:
That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we looked upon and have touched with our hands, concerning the word of life—the life was made manifest, and we have seen it, and testify to it and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was made manifest to us—that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ. (1 John 1:1–3)
Using words, John tells us of the Word—Jesus—made flesh. This Word, this Son, is now proclaimed to us through the word-based preaching of the gospel. This is how we are told of this news: through mere words.
And yet, these words are powerful words. We might say that this Word is worth more than a thousand pictures—because it is the only word that is strong and mighty enough to save us from ourselves, the world, and the devil. Praise be to God for his Word!