A PREACHER PROBLEM
This is not written to excuse brethren who preach but an attempt to focus attention on a matter he and all brethren must face. A preacher probably runs the greatest risk of anyone of being accused and being guilty of Phariseeism. I specify the characteristic named in Matthew 23:3, "All therefore whatsoever they bid you observe, that observe and do; but do not ye after their works: for they say, and do not. " This is especially hazardous for preachers because "saying" is their prime occupation in life. No responsibility takes priority over public proclamation of the gospel.
“Preach the word” is the apostolic admonition. That which is to be preached is the “perfect law of liberty.” Preachers are not to proclaim opinions as Christ's doctrine nor present themselves as if they were the standard by which all must be measured. His message must be a “thus saith the Lord,” but he may have as many difficulties as the next human being in living up to what he must proclaim as infallible truth. Surely, this accounts somewhat for the emphasis on the responsibility of teachers stated in James 3:1, “Be not many of you masters (teachers), my brethren, knowing that we shall receive the greater condemnation.”
We have all urged preaching brethren to “practice what they preach,” and good admonition this is. We have all understood the inherent weakness in the attitude that says, “Do as I say and not as I do.” But when we get right down to the bare facts of reality, every preacher must include some degree of that element in his work.
Who can say with the confidence of inspired Paul, “Those things, which ye have both learned, and received, and heard, and seen in me, do; and the God of peace shall be with you” (Philippians 4:9) Must we not provide some qualification because of our failings? Only Christ harmonized to perfection that which He would “do and teach” So we see the dilemma in which one who preaches finds himself. It is not his problem alone, however.
Finding problems is easy. Where is the solution? Unfortunately some who preach have succumbed to the temptation to alter their message to fit themselves and accept the sins of men. Recognizing their inability to live perfectly, they withdraw from declaring “the whole counsel of God” because they cannot completely live up to it themselves. But this does not solve the problem, but actually aggravates it because it lowers the standard toward which we all must strive. Some think to condemn is to make sinful judgments and since none is perfect all condemnation of sin must be abandoned. But we do not judge wrongfully, however, when we proclaim judgments God has already made and revealed. Yes, we must constantly work to remove our "beam" but if preachers abandon the exposure of the “mote” until all of his own faults are completely removed, neither he nor anyone else will continue to preach, positively or negatively, the gospel of Christ.
As much as possible, more than others, a preacher must do his utmost to live as he preaches. But he must recognize his own faults, strive to grow as he must, and brethren must respect the fact he is also a faltering human being like they are. One preacher complimented his mother by saying, “She practices what I preach.”
With the help of the Lord and encouragement from brethren and family, plus a determined personal effort, preachers are more likely to be less like the Pharisees in this matter, even though they will ever stand in jeopardy of this inconsistency by the very nature of his humanity and weaknesses and his task of preaching the perfect way.