Freedom of Expression in a Photoshop World

Or perhaps most surprising of all to our modern ears—especially since the enterprising and exaggerating spirit seems to take hold of us deepest when we’re part of some new work—Luke repeatedly describes the progress and impact of the early church in understated terms.

  • When Peter was supernaturally delivered from prison, “there was no little disturbance among the soldiers” (Acts 12:18).
  • When the gospel caused a riot in Ephesus, “there arose no little disturbance concerning the Way” (Acts 19:23).
  • When Paul laid his hands on a young boy, and raised him from the dead, “they took the youth away alive, and were not a little comforted” (Acts 20:12; see also 14:27–28; 21:39; 27:20).

Secure Enough to Be Small

When Christ is our security, we learn to be OK with our lives being more dramatic in reality than everyone needs to hear about through our speech. Rather than making subtle and shameless efforts to have others think we’re more fruitful than we really are, we’re happy to have them underestimate what may otherwise impress.

Ultimately, it is the bigness and unsurpassed beauty of Christ that frees us from exaggeration. Since Christ is even more powerful, and more glorious, than we can describe, we can’t over-speak about him, and we no longer need to feel compelled to over-speak about ourselves, our experiences, our feats and our lives.

Christians should have a corner on understatement. Let’s learn to enjoy the bigness of Christ by aiming to be free from self-exalting exaggeration. Jesus is impressive enough, and satisfying enough, to make us content with having our fruitfulness underestimated in the ocean of overstatement around us.  

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David Mathis
David Mathis (@davidcmathis) is executive editor at and an elder at Bethlehem Baptist Church, Minneapolis. He has edited several books, including Thinking. Loving. Doing., Finish the Mission, and Acting the Miracle, and is co-author of How to Stay Christian in Seminary.