Do As I Say, Not As I Do (2 Nephi 20)
Here are a few hypothetical scenarios:
- Suppose I am a church officer, perhaps a representative of the finance committee, and I come to your branch and present an impassioned plea for all of you to donate as much as you can to the church. During questions and answers, it somehow comes out that I myself don’t donate at all. You ask me, “Why should we donate to the church if you don’t?” How shall I respond – “Do as I say, not as I do”?
- Now suppose I’m a member of the ministry and I preach on the sinfulness of adultery, and then it comes out that I in fact indulge in sexual indiscretions. Do as I say, not as I do?
- I’m a Sunday school teacher, teaching about the 10 Commandments, when I regularly cheat on my taxes and am often dishonest in my dealings with other people. Do as I say, not as I do?
- Or, I’m a new member of the church (or any member of the church) and I tell my friends about how much the church has changed my life and how thankful I am that I no longer live the type of life I used to. Perhaps my friends still live this type of life, and I’m letting them know they would do well to check out the church. Yet, I still frequent the bars; my language is still filthy; and I don’t even make it to church very often. In short, my life hasn’t really changed that much after all. Do as I say, not as I do?
In each of these examples, the teaching presented is solid. Donating to the church isn’t less right because the person saying it doesn’t do it. Sin isn’t any more acceptable because the person cautioning against it is indulging in it. Coming to Christ is no less life-altering just because some people don’t put the “old man” to rest.
However, these messages do in fact carry considerably less credibility when the person saying them does not live by them. There are many people who believe that all Christians are actually hypocrites and every time another example like this comes to light, it reinforces that belief.
It’s true that we are all human and we all make mistakes from time to time; however, let’s understand that some of the things we may do that are contrary to the teachings of God can affect the faith or potential faith of others. I would feel terrible if my actions caused someone else to decide that church is not for them. At that point, it would sound hollow to say that it’s nobody else’s business but my own if I want to live my life that way.
We are each representatives of the Lord and also of The Church of Jesus Christ. The way we live our lives will cause others to make judgments regarding the Lord and The Church. Let’s try our best to make those judgments positive.
The prophecy in 2 Nephi 20 tells of a time when Israel would cheat the poor, the needy, the widow and the orphan by collecting money for them but not in fact helping them at all. It was prophesied that God would use the army of Assyria “against [the] hypocritical nation…to tread them down like the mire of the streets” (2 Nephi 20:6). Clearly, God does not look favorably on “Do as I say, not as I do.”
This article has undergone ministry review and approval.