Some things stick with you through life. In one of my high school literature classes, I read a poem and enjoyed it so much that I put it to memory. Ann and I were visiting in Alabama the other day and on our return home I remembered that poem that I enjoyed some 60 years ago. I’m embarrassed to say I don’t even know the author but its fullness came to me and I gladly share it with you.
“A crab unto its progeny, thou walketh so lopsidedly; a steady gate and straight ahead is more becoming and well bred. But Mama, show me, if you can, replied the young crustacean. The mother’s effort was an antic; pedantic, frantic and unromantic.
A wiggling, wobbling, jerking, clawing – with bulging eyes and head seesawing, a work ill fitted to inspire, reflect, affection or desire. The infant crab replied distracted, ‘O Mama, Mama, how you acted.’ Moral One: Example is the only teacher for man or crab or any creature. Moral two: Parents avoid such exhibitions, before your children, of conditions, they mock your worthy exposition.” (Author Unknown).
The question has been bated around for ages; which is the most impressive and important, what you say or what you do? Obviously, both are vital and essential. The simple words of Solomon says, “My son, hear the instruction of your father and forsake not the law of your mother, for they shall be an ornament of grace about your head, and chains about your neck” (Proverbs 1:8-9). But what if there are no instructions or no laws or boundaries? Examples cannot take the place of words or directions. James counters the giving of laws and instructions with these words: “Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this; to visit orphans and widows in their afflictions, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world” (James 1:27).So what happens when instructions are given but no human example is left showing how the laws and instructions work. Both the saying and the doing, though not equal, are vital and important. Luke, the physician and historian spoke of how Jesus began “to do and to teach” (Acts 1:1) He put the doing before the verbal teaching. Paul wrote to the Philippian church “Those things, which ye have both learned, and received, and heard, and seen in me, do; and the God of peace shall be with you” (Philippians 4:9). “Learned, received, heard and seen. What a power when they are put together!
The old saying is true, “Whatever is said and done, there’ll be more said than done”. The problem with us who live on this planet is that we are all human. Our inconsistencies are too soon and too easily detected by those about us. It is difficult to deny what we are.
There is a BIG-LITTLE word in the dictionary that may help us with the serious question before us. That word is HYPOCRITE OR HYPOCRISY. Webster gives a deeper insight into the original meaning of these words. “One who affects virtues or qualities he does not have. The act of playing a part on the stage. A feigning to be what one is not, or to believe what one does not. The false assumption of an appearance of virtue or religion” (Webster 7th New Collegiate Dictionary). Now we may altogether stand up and plead ‘guilty!’
Sometimes people recognize me on the street or in the shops. They have seen the ‘mug shot’ that introduces this column. They do not know me. They know nothing of my flaws, my weaknesses, and my inability to live all that I write and speak. I have what is called a ‘persona’, the outward form. They see my ‘heart’ in my writings, but we all write better than we live. The inability to live all the things we love and teach is not HYPOCRISY. It is only when we fake it to be true, claiming the glory and honor when it is not ours to claim. We sing better than we live. We teach a higher life than we presently possess. We pray in lofty heights that we do not fly. This is not HYPOCRISY. This is the struggle we all face. We want to bring both our life and our words together in sweet harmony. In humility we admit, as Paul, “I have not yet reached my goal, and I am not perfect. But Christ has taken hold of me. So I keep on running and struggling to take hold of the prize . . . I do not feel that I have already arrived, but I forget what is behind, and I struggle for what is ahead; I run toward the goal. . . this is the prize that God has offered because of what Jesus Christ has done” (Philippians 3:12-14 – CEV).
Humility marks the difference between hypocrisy and humanity. I am not what I want to be, I am not what I am going to be, but thank God, I am not what I once was. “A crab unto its progeny, thou walketh so lopsidedly, a steady gate and straight ahead is more becoming and well bred. But Mama, show me if you can, replied the young crustacean.”