Jesus spoke to the crowds and to his disciples, saying, “The scribes and the Pharisees have taken their seat on the chair of Moses. Therefore, do and observe all things whatsoever they tell you, but do not follow their example. For they preach but they do not practice. They tie up heavy burdens hard to carry and lay them on people’s shoulders, but they will not lift a finger to move them. All their works are performed to be seen. They widen their phylacteries and lengthen their tassels. They love places of honor at banquets, seats of honor in synagogues, greetings in marketplaces, and the salutation ‘Rabbi.’ As for you, do not be called ‘Rabbi.’ You have but one teacher, and you are all brothers. Call no one on earth your father; you have but one Father in heaven. Do not be called ‘Master’; you have but one master, the Christ. The greatest among you must be your servant. Whoever exalts himself will be humbled; but whoever humbles himself will be exalted.”
Observe… whatsoever they tell you. It is unfortunate when our teachers and leaders lose credibility because they do not practice what they preach.
Jesus’ advice to his disciples vis-à-vis the scribes and Pharisees is instructive. They are to observe what these religious leaders preach, but not what they do. Since as teachers they represent the great teacher Moses, their message is to be heeded. Unfortunately, their example cannot be followed because, as Jesus says, their actions (desiring places of honor, showing off their piety, and binding heavy burdens they themselves would not carry) do not reflect what they teach.
In daily life, it is difficult to follow what the preacher says — no matter how praiseworthy or valuable — if we know the person does not practice it. So, in a sense, Jesus is being lenient or considerate in his call to observe what the scribes and the Pharisees teach. Consistency between what we say and what we do is the key to our credibility. Not all preachers and teachers are good witnesses to what they preach and teach. Hence, there is need for constant examination of life and for prayer to receive the grace of ongoing conversion.
Do you see inconsistency between your actions and your words? Are you open to serious soul-searching to discover the roots?