July 21, 1998
David Prowse wore the Darth Vader suit in the Star Wars movie and spoke all of Vader’s lines but in the final version, all his words were dubbed over by James Earl Jones. Prowse must have been disappointed. Even though he was playing the role of an imaginary person, he expected to hear his own voice in the theater.
Prowse was playing a role, but saying someone else’s words could also be plagiarism. I once heard a speech that was almost identical to another one delivered by a more famous speaker. Because I recognized it, the second speech was a great disappointment.
Sometimes people say someone else’s words because they are delivering a message for them. For instance, we send one child to tell the others that “it is suppertime.” We expect them to deliver the message promptly and repeat it as it was given.
I’m not sure how we can define what James Earl Jones was doing. He delivered Vadar’s lines (an imaginary person) using Prowse’s moving lips (without his permission). In some ways, he was delivering a message but imagine words coming out of your mouth that are not your words and someone else is saying them!
Being a “mouth” for another person’s words is not a far-fetched idea for a Christian. When the first disciples of Christ came together for prayer, Acts 4:31 says “they prayed and the place where they were meeting was shaken. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God boldly.”
These men and women were talking — but their words were not their words. They were not actors playing a role, nor were they committing plagiarism. They were delivering a message, given to them by God, a message He wanted them to pass on to others without changing or adding to it. Further, passing on a message from God is a more incredible responsibility than telling someone supper is ready. The destiny of the listeners depended on fidelity to the original.
Besides that, giving God’s message has an added twist. Merely reciting verses from of the Bible, even reciting them accurately, does not necessarily do it. God did inspire the writing of Scripture, but delivering a powerful message for God is not reading — instead, it is God-driven.
God-driven describes a person controlled by the Spirit of God rather than by personal motivations. This person is usually willing to speak, however God is not restricted by human resistance or indifference. If He chooses, He can speak through whoever or whatever He wants (even a donkey (see Numbers 22).
God informs His people, even commands us, that we can say His words: “If anyone speaks, he should do it as one speaking the very words of God” (1 Peter 4:11). Imagine the difference in our speech if we knew God was using our mouths!
Most importantly, speaking for God is a type of service for Him. Peter goes on to say, “If anyone serves, he should do it with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever.”
Speaking for God is not for self-aggrandizement. In fact, selfish motives must be put aside. When a person (or a donkey!) actually does it, God is using them in a living and active way. He is present and very intentional; these words are important to His plan.
In the minds of Star Wars fans, no one thought about David Prowse’s lips moving, or that they were hearing sounds made by James Earl Jones. For them, Darth Vadar was speaking. It is like this when God speaks through His people. The voice may be a preacher, a Christian neighbor or whoever He decides to use, but those willing to hear God will know it is Him.