It’s similar to the parable Jesus tells to the religious leaders of his day in Matthew 21:28-31:
“What do you think? There was a man who had two sons. He went to the first and said, ‘Son, go and work today in the vineyard.’
‘I will not,’ he answered, but later he changed his mind and went.
Then the father went to the other son and said the same thing. He answered, ‘I will, sir,’ but he did not go.
Which of the two did what his father wanted?”
“The first,” they answered.
Jesus said to them, “I tell you the truth, the tax collectors and the prostitutes are entering the kingdom of God ahead of you.”
Jesus calls out the religious leaders who know how to ask crafty questions and answer theological matters but do not repent and do the will of God, and that includes great preaching.
And how often are we like those religious leaders? It is so easy to say we will do what we say, because in so many situations, we are rewarded for our ability to communicate. But skill is not enough in God’s eyes. He’s looking at our hearts, and whether we have the maturity to allow ourselves to be transformed. And change of any significance comes through the heart.
So where to go from here?
2 ideas that have helped me greatly in this area
The first is to cede some control of my image.
So often, my temptation to “perform” is rooted in my desire to control and manage my own image in front of others. I hate being misrepresented or misunderstood. So when people ask me what my weaknesses are, I often tell them, “Why don’t you ask my wife or friends that question when I’m not around?” That way, I can’t just paint whatever picture I want of myself.
Second, our challenge is to follow through with what we confess.
That’s not to say we won’t continue to struggle with things, but we can actively work on them! So when I share something I need to work on, I invite others to ask me about it next month, next year and beyond. That compels me to stay accountable, and hopefully also careful about what I choose to say.
We should never mistake skill, like great preaching, for maturity. Yet this is so easy to do in many worlds, from business to ministry.
If you’re a good speaker, and skilled with people, you have the ability to use that to work to your advantage. As our intelligence and skills develop, they actually increase our ability and temptation to seek admiration, rather than true accountability from others and transformation from God. That’s why we have to be extra cautious, and always humble.
This article on great preaching first appeared here.