Do as I SAY, not as I DO?

Do as I SAY, not as I DO?

Have you ever heard the phrase, “Do as I say, not as I do?” Maybe you were told this as a child, or maybe it was just implied.  “The rules are different for you than they are for me.” “I can do these things, but you can’t.” “The standards are higher for you, but I make my own rules.”

It may have been smoking, or drinking, or eating your vegetables.  Or swearing, or lying, or saying please and thank you. Maybe it was going to church, or forgiving others, reading your Bible, or praying.  

Sometimes, adults find it easier to tell the children in their lives how to behave, rather than doing it themselves and becoming the example to follow.  There are an endless number of excuses we can use; “well, I don’t like brusselsprouts”, “I am an adult, I can make my own decisions”, “I went to church plenty when I was growing up”, “You just don’t all of the history between us. There’s just too much to forgive”, “I am so busy, I don’t really have time to read my Bible or pray.”  “Been there, done that.” Even though we may know these things are ‘good’ for us, the excuses are endless.  There is always a reason why we don’t do the good things we know we should do. And yet we know they are helpful, good for us and sometimes necessary.  That’s why we encourage our kids to do them. 

The philosophy of “Do as I say, and not as I do” has a few flaws.

  • Your instruction is temporary. They may obey today, but have no reason to obey beyond that. Your instruction doesn’t change their hearts and minds. It just gets them through this moment, this situation, and ‘lessens the pain’ for the moment.
  • There is no meaningful ‘how to’. They have no model for how to navigate your instruction because they don’t see you doing it.  
  • There is no lasting impression. They don’t see how this behavior will benefit them as adults. They don’t see the peace and resolve that forgiveness can bring. They don’t see how a  knowledge of scripture provides instruction for the mess and confusion that exists in all stages of life. They don’t see how when the trials of life bear down on us, the body of Christ, the Church, surrounds us, helping us weather the storm.
  • The approach of “Do as I say, not as I do” is buying into the lie that you aren’t good enough, or are unable to change. When in all reality, you are also called to follow the example of our Heavenly Father and He has pledged to help you through the Holy Spirit.

We won’t impact our kids positively unless our lives match our words.

We can lead by example because WE are led by example.

“Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.” Ephesians 5:1-2 ESV

Jesus is the ultimate example.  He does not merely say, “Do as I say…” He says, “Do as I do. Love as I love, forgive as I forgive, pray as I pray, obey as I obey, worship as I worship, serve as I serve.”  Jesus came to Earth and lived as we live.There is nothing on earth that we can experience that he hasn’t already.  Jesus set the example by living how we ought to live.

  • Jesus was obedient to God the Father: “Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done.” Luke 22:42 (ESV)
  • Jesus served others: “If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet.” John 13:14 (ESV)
  • As he was dying on the cross, to forgive us for our sins, he prayed for forgiveness for those who put Him there. ”And Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” Luke 23:34
  • Jesus modeled how to pray and worship for us, “So, pray this way: Our Father in heaven, may your name be honored, may your kingdom come, may your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” (Matthew 6:9-10)

He is forgiving, he is worshipful, he is prayerful, obedient, truthful, a loyal friend, and he probably even liked brusselsprouts!  He is the model for our behavior in every way. He doesn’t expect us to do something he didn’t do himself. Jesus experienced every temptation on earth that we do, and yet he still didn’t sin. And He wants the same for us.

So the next time you are tempted to take the easy way out, and expect a child in your life to “Do as you say and not as you do”, take a breath, and try another approach:

  • Search out God’s wisdom in your Bible. (Or try to search by topic.) Find out how God wants YOU to live in this area. Remember – He is our ultimate model for EVERYTHING, and our kids will learn best when we lead by example just as God does.
  • Pray.  God is faithful and He will help you. Just ask Him.
  • Seek out other Christians who may have been down this road, or at least will listen and understand where you are coming from. They might have some tips you hadn’t thought of yet.
  • Consider discussing the issue at hand with the child, admitting your own struggle in that area and brainstorming ways for both of you to make progress. Being transparent is a great way to model humility, honesty and ongoing self-improvement.
  • Give yourself (and the child) grace. God never expected us to be perfect. He only expected us to continue to try to live like Him. He gives us ultimate, perfect grace even when we don’t deserve it. He will help. He will forgive. He will celebrate our progress as He does a mighty work in and through us.

With work and prayer, hopefully soon, like the Apostle Paul, you will be saying: “Do as I DO, and not just what I SAY..”  “Follow my example, just like I follow Christ’s.1 Corinthians 11:1 (CEB)

Photo by Jamie Street on Unsplash

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