Read Genesis 32, Esther 8, and Matthew 23 today. This devotional is about Matthew 23.
This chapter continues the teachings of Jesus during the “Passion Week”–last week of his life before the crucifixion. The vast majority of this chapter prophesies against the Pharisees for the many sins Jesus saw in them.
The chapter opened with Jesus acknowledging that the Pharisees had some legitimate authority over the disciples (vv. 2-3a). But Jesus immediately warned his disciples not to follow their hypocritical example. Verses 3b-4 say, “But do not do what they do, for they do not practice what they preach. 4 They tie up heavy, cumbersome loads and put them on other people’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to lift a finger to move them.”
Christ’s condemnation, “they do not practice what they preach”, is a warning to every disciple, especially those of us who serve in teaching roles in the church.
Every Christian, including every elder and teacher, remains a sinner who struggles daily with the desires and habits of our sinful nature within us as well as the weakness of being human in a fallen world. That means that all of us will preach better than we practice most of the time.
Jesus’s instructions in this passage are not a requirement to be perfect before we teach and lead others spiritually. Instead, they are a warning not to exempt yourself from what you command others to do.
When I was a kid, the pastor of our church was fired for a number of reasons. One of those reasons was that he did not tithe, even though tithing was required of all members and was something he taught. When confronted about this, “We tithe our time” was his response. In other words, he felt that since he worked more than 40 hours a week in the church’s ministry and his wife volunteered to serve a lot in the church, then he was not required to tithe. The time they spent serving, in his mind, offset the lack of financial giving from himself and his wife.
That is what Jesus condemned in this passage–an intentional exemption of the preacher from the things he commanded and demanded of others.
If a man preaches that the fruit of the Spirit is self-control but then loses his temper, he is not automatically a hypocrite. He is a man who continues to struggle with his sinfulness.
But if he preaches self-control, yet frequently loses his temper and sins with his tongue but never expresses repentance or changes his ways, then he is acting in the kind of Pharisaical way Jesus condemned in this passage.
Do you require your children to be better Christians than you are? Do you allow yourself to do things that you’d never allow them to do? Do you condemn your children when you catch them sinning even though you do the same sin(s) in private?
Then repent of your hypocrisy and ask God to develop in you personal integrity. Learn to practice godliness in your life then learn to preach what you practice.