SUMMARY: There is nothing better than a product that is consistent. In the same way, Christian men are called to be spiritually consistent. In this Resolute Podcast, Vince Miller shares how we as men can become spiritually consistent as Jesus challenges the spiritual leaders of the first century.
RESOLUTE STUDY GUIDE: CONSISTENCY
There is nothing worse than a product that is inconsistent. And over the last few weeks, I have learned the meaning of this.
So, I have purchased a few products recently and I love it when a product is consistent, but when it lacks consistency this can be very irritating. Here are three recent inconsistent products I have purchased. First, I picked up some sandwich bags and every one of the baggies had the same zipper on each side. I was trying to close one of them, and after the third try I became a little irritated because I was in a rush and it wouldn’t close. Why? Well instead of having a yellow zip side and blue zipper side all I got was two blue zippers sides. And I felt betrayed by my knock off brand baggies that saved me .75 cents. Then next, I picked up some garbage bags for our indoor trash cans, and no kidding I opened the garbage bags and they were not sealed at the bottom of the bag. I opened one and it had two tops with no bottom. Not helpful at all. Then I opened the next one, same thing. And then the next one, and again the same thing. Lastly, the following day I opened the egg carton, and I usually check the eggs before buying, and yes no kidding the bottom on every egg in the fridge was cracked. Not sure if I did it or not, but they were all destroyed. Inconsistency, is frustrating, is it not! When you buy a product, you want it to perform consistently, that is why you buy it! You expect to buy a product that is consistent with the label.
Then yesterday my wife and I stopped into Bath and Body Works, yeah I know don’t make fun of men. We went in to pick up some seasonal hand soap for our bathrooms. And their products were very consistent. I noticed almost immediately that they had taken all the same products and scents that they sell in the off-season like vanilla, mint, apple, and cinnamon and had rebranded them to look like seasonal products. I thought to myself as we left the store – “genius move.” They simply took all the best-selling products they have always sold, and added a couple of new scents to them like pumpkin pie and peppermint stick and hashtag boom they have “new products.” Now this we like, right? Because Bath and Body Works knows that nothing sells better than consistent products! So they chose to sell consistency!
In the same way, we are called to be spiritually consistent. On our way to becoming a spiritual champion we need consistency in all that we think and do. Whether on the field or off. In our public and private life. In our business and in our home. When we are at church or out with friends. Consistency is the name of the game. And the consistency that Jesus calls first century followers to digs deeps and hits hard. Let me read from…
25 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you clean the outside of the cup and the plate, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. 26 You blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and the plate, that the outside also may be clean. 27 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within are full of dead people’s bones and all uncleanness. 28 So you also outwardly appear righteous to others, but within you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.
So, Jesus is a having a coaching moment here. He takes two prominent religious occupations and he turns their practices and shortcomings into practical illustrations. The first occupation, which was Scribe, we people in ancient Israel renowned for fulfilling job duties we might associate with lawyers, government ministers, or judges. One of their primary roles was to copy text, like the Torah, and other important documents. They used a meticulous hand copying process, since prior to the invention of the printing press everything needed to be transcribed and copied by hand. The second occupation referenced was the Pharisee. These professionals were part political party, social movement, and a school of thought in Israel during the time of Second Temple. So, Jesus takes these two occupations and gives them another occupational title and description, he calls them Hypocrites. A hypocrite was a technical term for a stage actor and was not considered a proper role for a public figure or a religious person. For example, in Athens during the 4th century BC, the great orator Demosthenes ridiculed his rival Aeschines, who had been a successful actor before taking up politics. He branded him as a hypocrite whose skill at impersonating characters on stage made him an “untrustworthy politician.” This is where we get the negative of our negative view which comes from the word hypocrite. Jesus was clearly leveraging this history and interpretation calling these professionals inconsistent in their behavior. Or it might be more accurate to say that they were meticulously consistent on one level and completely inconsistent on another.
But without getting too distracted by all the nuances of history, Jesus is addressing the inconsistencies he sees in their character. He is pointing out the insincere appearance of virtue. He wants to drive their character toward motivational consistency. Jesus does this by focusing on ritual purity and cleansing. As they heard this illustration, they would have recalled the ritual cleansing process and this was an important practice given their occupations. Jesus takes this process and drives the principles deeper, by suggesting that their ritual cleansing is not consistent – or that they clean the outside but neglect the inside. Now no God-fearing Jew would ever wash only the outside of a cup and not the inside, so the hyperbole cannot be missed. Therefore, Jesus focuses on the principle of this. His ultimate point is not about ritual cleansing but the ridiculous nature of this process inconsistency which he projects into the process of moral cleansing and purity. In other words, if the principle holds true in ritual purity, why not transfer the principle to moral or spiritual purity.
What is especially powerful about the application of this point is that Jesus wants you and men to be challenged by the application of this consistency. Jesus is inviting us to address our spiritual inconsistencies when we know consistency is what represents our spiritual credibility. I believe the challenge here is to drive our consistencies to the heart level not simply keep them at the behavior level. A simple way to understand this is not only do I have to act consistent, I must be consistent.
This is what I love about In and Out Burger. Every single time their burgers are perfectly consistent. The same toasted bun, the same great meat, the same crunchy onion, tomatoes, lettuce, tartar sauce, and fries. Everything wrapped in the same paper, in the same box. And this is what keeps me coming back consistently. And every store is the same!
But remember Jesus is not talking about hamburgers, sandwich baggies, garbage bags, or scented soap, he is talking about you and me. Christian men and his challenge for us is to become a spiritual champion by being consistent. By integrating the inside of life with the outside of our life. Because when we do this we model for the world who Jesus is. We live the example. And you know where this begins, it all begins in the consistent practice of remaining faithful to simple disciplines that transfer into deep change.
So just to be clear men, Jesus is calling for internal consistency. He is calling for the transformation of our internal character. And again, this is not acting at a deeper level, but true heart transformation that leads to the subsequent behavior change. He is calling for consistency of motivation, thought, and action.