Matthew 23:3,“For they preach, but do not practice.”
“Practice what you preach” has become almost cliché in today’s world. However, there is a significant Biblical truth contained in the words. And that is because these words (or words very similar) were spoken by the Lord Jesus Christ. Matthew 23 is a chapter of stinging rebuke from Jesus to the religious leaders of the day. In it, Jesus levels seven ‘woes’ on the hypocritical Pharisees. At the beginning of the chapter, Jesus says to his disciples and the crowds, “For they preach, but do not practice” (v. 3). The Pharisees said one thing and did another – their conduct did not match their confession. Well did Jesus speak of them in Matthew 15: “You hypocrites! … This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me; in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrine the commandments of men” (vv. 7-9).
I think there is an important reminder for us in these words of Jesus. And that is simply that our actions are to be consistent with our words. We go to worship on Sunday, but is our conduct the other six days of the week consistent with our Sunday profession? The Bible emphatically teaches that we are not saved by works (see Eph 2:4-9; 2 Tim 1:9; Titus 3:4-7); but the Bible equally emphatically teaches that we are saved unto good works (Eph 2:10). That is, when we become Christians, we are born again (John 3:3-8), and we are new creations in Christ (2 Cor 5:17); and it is now our desire to live for Christ and for his glory (John 14:15; 15:14). The tree is known by its fruit. And for the believer, we have been given new roots – so to speak – our roots our now in Christ; and thus the fruit that we now produce will be consistent with our new life. In summary, the Christian must practice what he preaches – our conduct must be consistent with our confession. We are no longer slaves to sin, but we are slaves to Jesus Christ; and our greatest longing is to live in conformity to his will (Ps 42:1-2).
May this be our prayer: “O Lord, give me the strength to live in accordance with what I speak; I do love you, Lord Jesus – help me to live for you. Give me grace to bear faithful witness, in word and in deed, to your glory and your grace. Help me to honor you with my lips, my heart, and my life!!”
– Rev. Robert Arendale