Tuesday, May 5
Practice what you preach
Scripture: 2 Samuel 11-12, Psalm 51, Matthew 23
Matthew 23:2–3 The teachers of religious law and the Pharisees are the official interpreters of the law of Moses. 3 So practice and obey whatever they tell you, but don’t follow their example. For they don’t practice what they teach.
In Matthew 23, Jesus criticizes the religious leaders of His day for their hypocrisy. “Everything they do is for show,” He said. Then He pronounced seven woes upon them. “Woe to you,” or “What sorrow awaits you,” or “Alas!” These are judgments of barren religion.
All of this begins with Jesus telling the crowd to practice and obey what the religious leaders tell you, but don’t follow their example because they don’t practice what they teach. They talk it, but don’t live it.
That jumped out at me, and made me ask, “Do I practice what I preach?” It made me look at it from both sides.
First, what I preach. One of my mentors many years ago told us that we should never preach anything we can’t live. “If it’s not doable, it’s not true.” He was thinking of some of the idealistic things that preachers sometimes say. He believed that Jesus meant His teaching to be livable, doable, and if we’re making it too hard, we’ve missed the point.
Jesus criticized the religious leaders in v. 4: “They crush people with unbearable religious demands and never lift a finger to ease the burden.” If we make God’s word “unbearable” (literally, “doubly heavy”) then we have misused it and abused people.
So it is important as a teacher of Scripture to make sure that I am teaching God’s word as He intended it—to be a blessing, not a burden, to be livable, not undoable.
Second, what I practice. Am I doing what I tell others to do? Or giving myself a pass? Am I telling people to do one thing, and then doing another? Jesus makes it clear how wrong this is, and that our example has to match our words. If you won’t do it, don’t tell others to do it.
If it’s God’s word, God’s truth that you’re preaching, it applies to you as much as to anyone else. We must preach as those who are under the Word, never above it.
When I read this, I immediately thought of a couple things that I’ve said in my emails during this crisis. I recommended action for others—am I willing to do it myself? Yes. I will.
Prayer: Lord, help me to preach your word accurately so that I don’t burden people; and help me live your word honestly so that I set an example with my actions and not just my words.