Recently I was talking to someone who was a little concerned about an interview she had read about in Bloomberg Politics of one of the political candidates running for president. The candidate had been on record for proclaiming that he was a Bible-believing individual. He had stated many times: “I believe very, very strongly. I’m a big believer in the Bible. The Bible! Nothing beats the Bible.”
Knowing this, the reporter, Mark Halperin, asked this Bible-believing politician: “I’m wondering what one or two of your favorite Bible verses are.”
The response from the candidate was quick and blunt: “You know when I talk about the Bible it’s very personal.”
The reporter wasn’t going to be brushed off that easily. He asked the candidate: “There’s no verse that means a lot to you that you think about or cite?”
The candidate replied: “The Bible means a lot to me but I don’t want to get into specifics.”
And, that was that. End of discussion. The candidate couldn’t or wouldn’t share a personal favorite Bible verse. It is one thing to say that one is “big on the Bible”, but quite another to not be able to come up with at least one verse to share to show that the words being proclaim are more than lip service. My goodness, at least he could have stated the infamous John 11:35: “He wept.”
To this scenario Jesus would say, quoting the prophet Isaiah: “Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you hypocrites; as it is written: These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. They worship in vain . . .”
Our scripture reading this morning is simple. A group of Pharisees and teachers of the law are standing around watching Jesus and his disciples. They notice that Jesus’ disciples are eating food with “unclean” hands . . . they had not ceremonially washed their hands before eating. This goes against the Hebrew traditions . . . not the law, but the traditions. They question Jesus about why he is allowing his disciples to break tradition . . . it sets a poor example for the people.
Of course, Jesus calls them hypocrites . . . tells them that it is not what goes into the body that defiles a person, but what comes out. Jesus says, “Listen to me, everyone, and understand this. Nothing outside a man can make him ‘unclean’ by going into him. Rather, it is what comes out of a man that makes him ‘unclean.’”
Wham . . . bam . . . slam . . . the book is closed in this argument. It is one thing to go through the motions, it is quite another thing to live up to what one is proclaiming. Actions speak louder than words. What good does it do to have “clean” hands when one is a cheating, lying, immoral individual? What good is it to do things by the book when one steals, rips people off, and treats other unfairly? What good is it to be able to proclaim one’s self as a Bible-believing person of faith, if he or she cannot even come up with one verse from the book that is proclaimed so loved? Yes, actions speak louder than words.
When Jesus speaks of “what comes out of a man is what makes him ‘unclean,’” he is referencing the actions that one takes . . . the way that one lives life. Jesus wants his followers to “walk the walk . . . not the talk.” When one’s actions are the opposite of one’s words . . . well, Jesus said that they were hypocrites.
I am not sure there is anyone who would disagree, but we have entered into the season of hypocrisy. We have entered into the start of the election process for our next president of these United States . . . and, we have already heard enough words contradicting actions to last us more than a lifetime. Politicians say what the people want to hear, but in the end they never come close to living up to the words they say they believe.
But, it is just not politicians. The reality show based on the Bible-believing, God-fearing Duggar family—19 Kids and Counting—we witnessed the fall of one its main characters when son, Josh Duggar was caught in lies. For all of his proclaimed values in the sacredness of family and marriage he was caught in lies in his past life and in his present life. Despite stumping and lobbying for a family and faith value group . . . he lived a completely different life filled with sex, affairs, cheating, lying and being just a plain old hypocrite. The fall from grace was painful as he now attempts to right the sinking ship. His words said one thing, his actions spoke another.
But! Let us not be the first to throw stones! I imagine all of us can think of moments and instances in our own lives where our words were a far cry from our actions . . . circumstances and examples of when our actions were contrary to our actions . . . moments when we were hypocritical in our faith and lives. We have all done it. We have all been hypocrites. And, making it even more difficult to avoid these moment of hypocrisy is the fact that we are living in a day and age where the lines of right and wrong . . . the lines of faith . . . are constantly being blurred. We no longer live in a world that is black and white, but we live in a world of growing gray.
Jesus said it was the actions of the individual that proclaims the faith. It is what a person does . . . the way a person lives his or her life. Actions speak louder than words.
So, how are we doing as the followers of Jesus? How are you doing?
The prophet Micah proclaimed: “He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.”
Jesus said, “To love the Lord, our God, completely with our whole hearts, minds, and body . . . and, to love our neighbors as we love ourselves.”
These are the words that we speak as the followers of Jesus. These are the words for which the world will judge us by the actions that we take. To act justly . . . easier said than done, especially when we feel as if are the ones on the short end of the stick. To love mercy . . . phtttt! Tell that to the cut who just went speeding by and cut me off on Highway 212 as I flashed him the Hawaiian sign for good luck. Walk humbly . . . well, if I can ever figure out how to do that while living better than most of the rest of the world, I sell you the secret and make millions. Love God . . . do words count . . . does going to church count . . . does standing at the table receiving communion count . . . putting an offering in the collection plate . . . reading my Bible daily count? Doesn’t that show God and everyone else that I love God? And, to love my neighbor . . . shoot, that is why I live in Montana . . . neighbors are few and far between. Our actions reveal our true selves.
The people of faith are exposed to the world through the way that they live their lives . . . through the actions that they take . . . by what comes out of them, not by what goes into them. Anything less is hypocrisy. We know this . . . we really do know this as the followers of Jesus. We have proclaimed it many times through the journey of our faith . . .
In one of my favorite church camp songs, They’ll Know We Are Christians, we hear the verses proclaim words of action . . . walking hand in hand, working beside one another, taking care of each other. Love is not a noun, but a verb . . . verbs delineate action . . . delineate doing something. In that song loved by many we proclaim for the entire world to hear: “And they’ll know we are Christians by our love, by our love, yes, they’ll know we are Christian by our love.”
That was what Jesus was saying. Amen.