I suspect the phrase “practice what you preach” may have come from Matthew 23:3. Jesus was explaining that the Pharisees preached good sermons from the authoritative seat of Moses, and they should be listened to. It says, “The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses’ seat, so practice and observe whatever they tell you—but not what they do. For they preach, but do not practice.” But it’s the practice that preaches so much louder than the preaching. It’s the practice that truly makes the difference.

Epictetus, an ancient Greek philosopher, wanted to teach his students that truth understood is of no value; it is truth acted upon which changes things. This is, of course, a great truth. The problem is that we tend to remember only the words in these little sayings and ignore the truth they are intended to communicate. Epictetus once gathered his students around and said, “Have you ever noticed that a sheep does not vomit up the grass it ate at the feet of the shepherd in order to impress him? The sheep digests it to produce wool and milk.” What a vivid illustration of the idea that it is truth acted upon that changes things.

I try hard to look at myself before I point my fingers at others, but don’t always see the truth about myself. I have my share of blind spots. I’m sometimes like the father who complained about the amount of time his family spent in front of the television. His children watched cartoons and neglected schoolwork. His wife preferred soap operas to housework. His solution? “As soon as football season’s over, I’m going to pull the plug.”

Is it only me?

“For they preach, but do not practice.” Matthew 23:3