As he taught, Jesus said, “Watch out for the teachers of the law. They like to walk around in flowing robes and be greeted in the marketplaces, and have the most important seats in the synagogues and the places of honor at banquets. They devour widows’ houses and for a show make lengthy prayers. Such men will be punished most severely.” (Mk 12:38-40, NIV)
Jesus was a teacher who practiced what He preached. He didn’t merely give sermons—He lived them. If someone wanted to learn how to practice His teachings, all they had to do was watch Him.
In Jesus’ day, talking a good religious talk earned honor, recognition, and a paycheck—even if it was not backed up by godly character, integrity, and action. We occasionally see the same thing today. Some Christian pastors, teachers, and leaders have near rock-star status with minimal accountability. Our high premium on privacy, along with the use of convenient but impersonal mass media, makes it difficult for us to know who they really are. Maybe they do live what they preach—maybe they don’t. How could anyone know?
What are we to do with Jesus’ disturbing warning? Most importantly, whether you’re a leader or not, take care to watch yourself. Who you are and what you do, should line up with what you say. If you want to be known for being all about social justice, go ahead and post articles on your Facebook page, put bumper stickers on your car, advocate for fair trade, and campaign for politicians who support your convictions. But don’t stop there. Also get to know the widow or divorcee next door. Make friends with the foster child in your child’s class. Drive the extra distance and do business in a poor section of town. When you cross paths with disabled people, single moms, minorities, the economically disadvantaged, look them warmly in the eye. And if the Lord prompts you to do anything more, trust Him and step out.
Also, when choosing someone to mentor you in your spiritual life, choose someone you can get to know personally. Jesus says in Luke 6:40 that students, when they are fully trained, become like their teachers—so who we allow to help us with our spiritual formation really matters. Keep in mind that most of us learn more by watching and doing than merely by listening to exhortations and instructions. So, don’t just depend on popular Christian personalities to help you grow spiritually. Seek to do spiritual life with others who will do everyday life with you with honesty, vulnerability, and integrity. If you don’t have someone in your life like that, ask God to give you someone.