Live How You Preach
Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples, “The teachers of religious law and the Pharisees are the official interpreters of the law of Moses. So practice and obey whatever they tell you, but don’t follow their example. For they don’t practice what they teach. They crush people with unbearable religious demands and never lift a finger to ease the burden. – Matthew 23:1-4
How do you interact with people who don’t know Jesus as their savior? How do you intend to interact with these people? There’s usually a vast difference between the two. Why is that? Well, let’s dig deeper.
The main reason, and the reason implied in the verse, deals with the heart. That’s the issue the teachers of religious law and Pharisees (group of religious Jews) dealt with. They believed they were superior because of their heritage – basically, because they were God’s chosen people. As a result, pride built up in their heart. This pride seemed to make them think they were ‘above’ the law in some sense – similar to a student not studying for a test, just because the student knew they were the teacher’s favorite. This pride also made them think they were above other people – they became arrogant. If you’ve never dealt with arrogant people, they tend to treat others as if they aren’t human, but something less. When these arrogant Pharisees preached, they didn’t do it to help others.
Do we sometimes have the same outlook? I think so – most of us, some time or another. We see faults in other people, especially addictions – and think about how pathetic it is that they’re caught in that. We marvel at how out-of-whack their lives are. We think we’re better because we’re saved. Do we just forget that we came from the same situation – in need of God’s grace? It seems we tend to think that our life change came about of our own work, or that we’re more special than others because we’re saved. When we do ‘witness’ to these people, it’s often hypocritical and judgmental. We tell them what they do wrong, and the punishment it brings. Don’t get me wrong, people need to hear that – but in love with an intent to truly help, not to show them how much better you are. Holding that attitude speaks of the need to get your heart back on track, in tune with God’s desires.
God loved you so much that He sent His son to take your punishment – the death sentence. If you were the only person on Earth, He would still have sent His son so you wouldn’t have to face your punishment. Now think of the “worst” person in your life – that person at work you can’t stand, the person who mocks you because you’re a Christian, the person that stole from you – God sent His son to die for them, too. And if they were the only person on Earth, God still would have sent Jesus for them. Even further, Jesus told us to tell these people about Him. We are to be the messengers to these people – to serve them.
Don’t be like the Pharisees – when you speak to others, make sure your intent is to help them. Ask yourself this question: “Is what I’m telling them going to bring them closer to Christ?” Live out the changed life through Christ that you preach, and others will notice.
The BOTTOM LINE: bring people to Christ’s love by showing them Christ’s love – preach to others only to bring them closer to God.