The title of this piece is familiar to the reader. He and I have heard it, used it, and perhaps reflected on it from time to time. Let us surgically see what we can find within that expression. Perhaps there is something to learn from an expression so briefly declared and so popularly received.
When all is said and done, there is usually more said than done. We have all heard this as well, and within the scope of our own personal experiences, it seems to have wide application. Much of the time as plans are made, plans are formed and stated, but the execution of plans is not always accomplished. Talk is cheap. Ahab was a rotten individual, and yet on one occasion he said something brilliant. When threatened by Benhadad, he responded, “Let not him that girdeth on armor, boast himself as he that putteth it off” (2 Sam. 20:11). At least once he stated something that was pure gold!
When all is said and done, all is rarely said. We do not know all, and so we cannot say all. And we do not have time to say all even if the interest of others allowed us to do so. It is interesting to observe that in court, when one promises to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, by selective questions, he is disallowed to say anything other than what is asked. The attorney at the moment does not necessarily want all known to be presently said! We recall that in Scripture the queen of Sheba had received a glowing report of Solomon’s court. She did not believe it. But after seeing Solomon’s situation for herself, she said “the half was not told me” (1 Kings 10:7; cf. Matt. 12:42).
When all is said and done, all is rarely done. There is not enough time and energy to get everything done that we might like to see finished. Furthermore, we would not be happy if we did not have something to do. We humans need something significant to occupy our time on this earth. Solomon long ago pointed out the human need for expended effort in work and also in doing good (Eccl. 2:24; 3:12, 13; 5:12).
When all is said and done, some things are done without much being said. At times there is not much talk that precedes the doing of deeds. There is a time for action. It should not be without thought, but it can be without talk. When the sinking Peter cried for help, Jesus immediately grabbed him, and words followed (Matt. 14:31). There are many times in life when immediate action is required. There is a time to think, there is a time to speak, and there is a time to act.
When all is said and done, some things that are said shouldn’t be. We can all identify, and we likely all regret several things said in the past. It is a sad fact that at times we have simply spoken without much preceding thought, and the words selected were not well chosen. It is also the case, that we at times have spoken, and we did think beforehand, but our thinking was in error. Job was like that. He once said, “…I have uttered that I understood not; things too wonderful for me, which I knew not.”
When all is said and done, some things that are done shouldn’t be. Of course, this includes all sin. John said that he was writing so that his readers would not sin (1 John 2:1). It also includes many mistakes in judgment carried out in practice. We all regret bad decisions carried into effect.
When all is said and done, regarding Christianity, saying is not enough. John also wrote, “My little children, let us not love in word, neither with the tongue; but in deed and truth” (1 John 3:18). Jesus said that the Pharisees, as a group, were those who said and did not (Matt. 23:3). He had earlier affirmed that unless a person’s righteousness exceeded that of the scribes and Pharisees, he could not enter into the kingdom of heaven (Matt. 5:20).
When all is said and done, in some situations saying is an urgent matter. In his sermon on the mount, Jesus warned his fellow Jews to settle difficulties among themselves immediately. The failure to do this could lead to the escalation of tension and to increased complications. “Agree with thine adversary quickly,” he said (Matt. 5:25).
When all is said and done, in God’s case, there are two levels of things said. Sacred history records the fact that on some occasions God says things that are intended to evoke human response. He has used questions (Gen. 3:9, 11, 13). He has used declarations (Num. 14:11-20). The declaration made to Moses was a threat intended to be carried out only if there was a failure on Moses’ part to plead for the people. So, we can say that on this level, God declared something he would do, if the desired response was not effected, while knowing that the desired response would, in fact, come. So, on the first level, we could describe some of God’s sayings not as settled sayings or unconditioned statements, but as temporary causes to produce permanent effects. On the other hand, the second level of God’s speech involves his definite, settled declarations without the divine intention of simply effecting a response (Psalm 19:7; Heb. 6:17; Titus 1:2; Isa. 40:8; 1 Pet. 1:25). These are unconditioned statements, and they are set.
When all is said and done, God does what he wants to do. Whatever he does is perfect (Eccl. 3:14). And what he wants to do is carried out in heaven and on earth (Psalm 135:6). What others do may not always please him, but what he does pleases himself fully. God is never dissatisfied with himself or his actions.
When all is said and done, Jesus both said and did. In beginning his second book, Luke reminds Theophilus that in his first book he had written “concerning all that Jesus began to do and to teach” (Acts 1:1). John the baptizer spoke, but performed no miracles (Mark 1:4; John 10:41), but Jesus spoke and performed miracles as well. After witnessing a miracle that the Lord performed, some said, “He hath done all things well; he maketh even the deaf to hear, and the dumb to speak” (Mark 7:37). Peter would later in Caesarea say that Jesus went about doing good (Acts 10:38).
When all is said and done, we will be judged on what we say and what we do. Jesus said, “For by thy words thou shalt be justified, and by they words thou shalt be condemned” (Matt. 12:37). He had already stated that a person’s words indicate the condition of his heart (v. 34). And regarding resurrection and judgment, he declared that all the resurrected would be judged based on whether they had done good or had done evil (John 5:28-29).