Once upon a time, there was a man named Dr. Jekyll, an elderly old man who was beloved by his servants and by the people around him. There was also a man named Mr. Hyde, a sinister villain who perpetrated a number of crimes.
Once upon a time, there was a woman named Jane who went to church every Sunday, donated to charities, and always smiled and greeted her friends. There was also a woman named Mary who was cruel to her family, lazy, and foul-mouthed.
Let me tell you something: Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde are the same man. Jane and Mary are the same woman. How is something like this possible?
If you look around, you will notice that a common issue with believers today is hypocrisy. We say one thing, and then we do another thing. What’s more, this has become socially acceptable to do. We all recognize that sometimes you have to put on your “happy” face when you’re at church.
1 Timothy 4:12 tells us, “Let no one despise your youth, but be an example to the believers…in conduct.” If we want to truly obey this verse, we need to understand what it is saying to us. There are three key truths that come out of this verse for us.
1. Your conduct is important.
People watch you. You might not think so, but I guarantee that they do. When I was a child, I used to look up to a few teenagers in my church. I saw much of what they did, and I internalized it. And yet, when I became a teenager, I maintained that no one really cared the way I lived my life. It affected only myself. And yet, how foolish I was to think that no one looked up to me in the way that I had looked up to others!
Think of the three most godly people you know. You most likely came to that conclusion based on the way they act. While we shouldn’t always judge a person’s actions, it is true that your conduct is the clearest window into the motivations of your heart. If your actions are wrong, it is likely that your heart is not in the right place, and vice versa.
The Bible confirms the fact that people watch us. 1 Peter 3:1 speaks about how it is possible for wives to win over their unbelieving husbands without a single word. Matthew 5:16 also talks about our conduct (what we do) as a light that attracts other people to the glory of God.
So in case you don’t think that your actions at home or in private matter, think again.
2. Your conduct must be consistent.
No one likes a person who is Dr. Jekyll at church and Mr. Hyde at home. And more importantly, God has called us to be genuine people (Romans 12:9). We should be the same person at home and at church, at work and at school, at Walmart and on vacation. This is much easier said than done. For me, whenever I’m at home, or when I’m on vacation, I let my mind relax. I don’t think about the things I’m doing. And when I’m not consciously thinking about what I’m doing, the nasty side of me comes out, because that is the unedited, natural version of me.
While you are an example to the people around you, don’t do good things to attract their attention and praise. That is what Jesus condemned the Pharisees for doing. Yes, people are watching us, but that is a fact of life, not a motivation. If you are being a genuine person, the good actions will come out of you without being forced. If that is not the case, take a good look inside.
3. Your conduct must be commendable.
This probably goes without saying. But I think we sometimes don’t know what it looks like to be an example in our conduct. Should we do big, showy things like donating $1,000 to a fundraiser? Not that things like that are bad, but there is more than one way to be an example to someone of conduct.
I have a few examples. Dorcas was a woman in Acts who was known for the way she showed little acts of kindness to the people around her. She made clothes for the poor, something that is little. And in fact, she is not a very well-known Bible character! But when she died, her house was filled with mourners.
Gaius was a man who had shown good hospitality to Paul and his companions. Paul always greeted him and commended him for using his gifts. Gaius is, again, not a very famous Bible character. But he did what he could, and he did it humbly and simply.
Finally, my mom is a very good example of this. Many miss the little things that she does. No one will notice that the carpets at church have been steam-cleaned. No one may notice that she made plates of cookies for some of the singles at church. No one will notice that she gives to her friends’ adoptions, mission trips, and financial needs every chance she gets. But Mom sets a good example for her children and for the few people who might take notice. Again, setting an example is not about being showy; it is about being faithful.
President Roosevelt once said, “Do what you can, with what you have, where you are.” This is what the Lord is calling us to do. We need to be consistent and commendable in our actions; this is the way that we interest people, not in ourselves, but God’s amazing working in our lives!
~ Chelsea Hanna, Guest Author for The Heart of Teens