While you preach against stealing, do you steal? You who say that one must not commit adultery, do you commit adultery? Romans 2:21-22
As I watch my kids grow up, it’s natural to desire that they avoid painful life mistakes. From a young age, we’ve taught them right and wrong and we’ve disciplined them, hoping to guide them towards making good life decisions. Many times, though, I’ve had to look down at my own life and realize that I desperately just don’t want my kids to turn out like me, making the same mistakes I’ve made.
During my drug use, my kids weren’t aware of it, but even if they had been, I’m not sure that could have stopped me. I certainly have raised them, discouraging drug use, but my behavior at the time modeled the opposite message. I told them to live one way, while I lived the opposite way.
Paul addressed this hypocrisy in today’s passage. He wasn’t speaking only to parents, but he used the metaphor of raising children. If you are sure that you yourself are a guide to the blind, a light to those who are in darkness, an instructor of the foolish, a teacher of children . . . you then who teach others, do you not teach yourself (Romans 2:19-21)?
In Paul’s time, there were those who considered themselves to be devout followers of God, who presumed to instruct others, but who lived immoral lives themselves. They insisted that others follow the rules, but they couldn’t. Paul harshly criticized this hypocrisy, saying, The name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you (Romans 2:24).
Many of us have been here. We teach our kids not to abuse chemicals while we get drunk. We want our kids not to be sexually immoral while we struggle with pornography. We desire that our kids be kind and loving while we can’t control our anger. We want our kids to do what we cannot and then we desperately hope they don’t turn out like us.
It doesn’t have to be like this. We don’t have to be hypocritical parents. We can change. If we daily work at abandoning the old life for the new one, we can live the way we want our children to live. For better or worse, they’re likely going to turn out a lot like us. If we daily follow Christ, we can live in such a way that we’ll be proud of our kids for following.