You have likely heard the old saying “Do as I say, not as I do.” I did a bit of research on the source of that old saying and this is what I found: “Model yourself after my instructions, not my actions. The phrase implies that the speaker is imperfect and makes mistakes, so one should follow their advice but not imitate them.* and “Take my advice, even though I am acting contrary to it. (Sometimes used as an apology for behaving hypocritically.)”**
It seems to me that phrase is both good and bad. It is good in the respect that when you are in a position of power, you do want those that you direct to do as you say – ie a parent or a boss, etc. But, on the other hand, it is bad if you are speaking one thing and doing the opposite, because in that case you are acting as a hypocrite of the highest order.
It seems to me that in order to live a Christian life as fully as possible, we not only need to do what Jesus said to do, but we also need to do as He did. He was the perfect example in every way of how we should live our lives. However, just the saying and the doing is not enough – our hearts have to be right with God; or, the results of our words and actions are worthless. We cannot speak and act out of selfish reasons, seeking attention and accolades. We need to speak and act out of our love for God and the desire to reflect Him to others.
Jesus speaking – in Matthew 7:15-29 (VOICE) “‘Along the way, watch out for false prophets. They will come to you in sheep’s clothing, but underneath that quaint and innocent wool, they are hungry wolves. But you will recognize them by their fruits. You don’t find sweet, delicious grapes growing on thorny bushes, do you? You don’t find delectable figs growing in the midst of prickly thistles. People and their lives are like trees. Good trees bear beautiful, tasty fruit, but bad trees bear ugly, bitter fruit. A good tree cannot bear ugly, bitter fruit; nor can a bad tree bear fruit that is beautiful and tasty. And what happens to the rotten trees? They are cut down. They are used for firewood. When a prophet comes to you and preaches this or that, look for his fruits: sweet or sour? rotten or ripe? Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven. Simply calling Me ‘Lord’ will not be enough. Only those who do the will of My Father who is in heaven will join Me in heaven. At the end of time, on that day of judgment, many will say to Me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name? Did we not drive demons out of the possessed in Your name? Did we not perform miracles in Your name?’ But I will say to them, ‘I never knew you. And now, you must get away from Me, you evildoers!’ Those people who are listening to Me, those people who hear what I say and live according to My teachings—you are like a wise man who built his house on a rock, on a firm foundation. When storms hit, rain pounded down and waters rose, levies broke and winds beat all the walls of that house. But the house did not fall because it was built upon rock. Those of you who are listening and do not hear—you are like a fool who builds a house on sand. When a storm comes to his house, what will happen? The rain will fall, the waters will rise, the wind will blow, and his house will collapse with a great crash.’ With that Jesus finished His teaching, and the crowds were amazed by all He had said. But Jesus taught in His own name, on His own authority, not like the scribes.”
In this passage, Jesus gives the example of people that spoke and acted supposedly good, but for the wrong reasons. I am sure the people that observed them likely saw them living in a way that did not reflect what they were saying and doing – their hearts were not in the right place. They sought the celebrity and benefits of acting holy while living like the devil. Their lives were not founded on THE Rock, but on the shifting sands of hypocrisy.
There is another old saying “Actions Speak Louder Than Words”. In researching it I found it credited to multiple people starting from the 1500’s. But basically it reflects the idea that it is easier to skate by when you speak things that are wrong or blatant lies than it is to act out those same things and escape detection. Just as the Bible passage above spoke about building a home on rock vs building on sand – that is a pretty obvious example of doing what is right vs doing what is wrong.
Chris Tiegreen says this: “We can apply Jesus’ principle of fruit to ourselves as well. What do you really believe? What you do will indicate what’s deep down inside. If we say we believe in the power of prayer but rarely pray, we don’t really believe what we say. If we say we believe in the power of love to change lives, yet harbor critical and judgmental attitudes, once again we deceive ourselves.” This indicates that we are living a life of contradictions if this is how we think, speak and act.
“Our actions disclose what goes on within us, just as its fruit makes known a tree otherwise unknown to us.” Thalassios the Libyan
Each day when I have my prayer time, one of the things I do is tell the Lord that I want to reflect Him in my life; and, I ask Him to guard my thoughts, words and actions. How can I ever expect others to desire to have Jesus in their life if I claim to have Him yet do not act accordingly? I also ask Him to help me bring those things captive before I act on them. Admittedly, that is a very hard thing for me at times. Just last week I was walking along with a friend and started to speak out something about another person that was going to be somewhat judgmental. But I caught myself and backed away from saying it. It made me happy that I could stop those unkind thoughts from becoming unkind words. I have such a long way to go, but with God’s help I can hopefully improve and be more like Him.
We should all strive to think, speak and act like Jesus – building our relationship with Him on a solid foundation. Then our actions will speak louder than words and we can hopefully then express the idea that you should not just do as I say, but you should do as I do.
Written by Karran Martin – July 30, 2022
*Farlex Dictionary of Idioms **McGraw-Hill Dictionary of American Idioms and Phrasal Verbs
[All bold emphasis is mine]