It’s self-evident that a hypocrite is unqualified to guide others toward attaining higher character. No one respects someone who talks a good game but fails to play by the rules. What a leader does will have a greater impact on those he or she wishes to lead than what the leader says. A person may forget ninety percent of what a leader says, but he or she will never forget how the leader lives.
Bill Hendricks encountered an illustration of this principle during the days of the flourishing real estate market of the 1980s. He met a developer who claimed to have woven what he called “Biblical principles of business” into his deals. But when the market went south, he skipped town and left his investors to pick up the pieces—and the debts.
Another of Bill’s friends stands in sharp contrast to the first. He too was a land developer. He too talked of integrating Biblical principles into his business. And when the market crashed, so did his empire. But unlike the man who ran away, this land developer, as a matter of conscience, worked out a plan to pay back his investors.*
Which of these two would you rather follow in terms of integrity? There is simply no substitute for a man or woman of consistent Christlike character.
That doesn’t imply that any of us will be perfect. In fact, the New Testament doesn’t call for perfect leaders; it calls for those who are models of progress in their faith. Paul instructed Timothy to be diligent in following godly teachings. “Give yourself wholly to them,” he wrote, “so that everyone may see your progress” (1 Timothy 4:15). That’s sound advice for us today, as well.
1 Timothy 4:15 Practice these things, immerse yourself in them, so that all may see your progress. 16 Keep a close watch on yourself and on the teaching. Persist in this, for by so doing you will save both yourself and your hearers.