Some confuse consistency with boredom and mindless repetition, but in truth it keeps us steady and dependable and does a good deal to curb hypocrisy. Francis Bacon said, “Consistency is the foundation of virtue.” Consistency connects what we believe with how we behave and this is important. A more familiar way of stating this is that we need to practice what we preach, which incidentally, is easier to say than to do.
According to Jewish legend and oral tradition Abraham’s father Terah, was not only a worshipper of idols, but owned an idol shop. In this shop idols were made, sold and traded. Abraham however, at a fairly young age determined that idol worship was totally false and deceptive.
One day, when Terah left him alone to watch the shop, Abraham took a large hammer and smashed all the idols to bits, except for the largest one. His father came home and viewing the carnage was aghast. “What happened here?” he shouted. “It was amazing, Father,” replied Abraham. “The idols all got into a fight and the biggest idol beat all the others into pieces!” In anger and disgust Terah responded, “Are you crazy? These idols are made of wood and stone and cannot fight or argue or any such thing!” Abraham, having made his point relative to the inconsistency of his father’s beliefs, calmly replied, “Father, do your ears hear what your mouth is saying?”
Consistency is one of Jesus’ re-occurring themes in His teaching, especially to the religious leaders of His day. On one occasion, emphasizing the importance of being consistent, He told His listeners that, “…The Pharisees and the teachers of the Law are experts in the Law of Moses. So obey everything they teach you, but don’t do as they do. After all, they say one thing and do something else. They pile heavy burdens on people’s shoulders and won’t lift a finger to help” (Matthew 23:1 – 4).
The apostle James, addressing the same issue wrote, “Obey God’s message! Don’t fool yourselves by just listening to it. If you hear the message and don’t obey it, you are like people who stare at themselves in a mirror and forget what they look like as soon as they leave” (James 1:22 – 24).
In 1522 Martin Luther gave the eulogy for a pastor by the name of Nicholas Haussmann. It was brief and simple, but powerful and expressive. The famous reformer simply highlighted Pastor Haussmann’s consistency saying, “What we preach, he lived.” What will be said of us? Do our ears hear what our mouths are saying?
— Pastor Ross Helgeton is senior pastor at Erskine Evangelical Free Church