Note: This post is part of a series.
You might be a legalist if you don’t practice what you preach.
If you demand others to be righteous but then don’t follow your own words, you’re acting like the Pharisees. And Jesus had some pretty harsh words for them.
Look at Jesus’s words in Matthew 23:2-4:
2 “The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses’ seat, 3 so do and observe whatever they tell you, but not the works they do. For they preach, but do not practice. 4 They tie up heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on people’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to move them with their finger.
Within Judaism, the Scribes were experts on the Torah because they interpreted it. The Pharisees were experts in the theological matters that the Torah brought about. They had authority (Moses’ seat), so people were to respect them and observe what they interpreted properly, although they weren’t to mirror their works. They would maybe say the right things, but they wouldn’t do it themselves.
A similar situation is mentioned in Acts 15 during the Jerusalem Council. Peter condemned some there who were trying to put unnecessary demands on Gentile converts.
Today there could be:
- legalistic preachers, who preach one thing to their people and then neglect their very words;
- legalistic parents, who demand their children to act in biblical ways and then don’t act that way themselves.
We can so easily be legalistic simply by not practicing what we preach. We might know what’s right and how to proclaim what’s right, but we don’t always live as if it actually is right.
I believe the answer to this problem is that we need a softened heart that realizes the power of the grace of Jesus Christ. As Peter said, “. . .we believe that we will be saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus, just as they will” (Acts 15:11, ESV).