When people talk the talk but do not walk the walk, it means they do not act in a way consistent with what they say. Their lips profess one thing but their lives exhibit another. People like this are rightly seen to be inconsistent and insincere, or to be as Jesus called them, “hypocrites.”
The demand, “If you talk the talk, you better walk the walk,” most often comes from skeptical people who have seen too many phony professors claim one thing and do another. However, it is not an unreasonable request for Christians to walk their talk. If you say you believe something, you should live like you do, after all, “actions speak louder than words,” “the time for talk is over,” and it is only right for you to “practice what you preach.” These familiar phrases point to one thing—to be credible and effective, you must live what you believe. Above all things, Christ calls His followers to always live life transparently for Him, in the presence of a doubting, critical and often cynical world.
In Jesus’ day hypocrites were well known for talking the talk, but not walking the walk. The Lord condemned them in the harshest terms, saying they would blow a trumpet so everyone could see them give alms (Matt 6:2)—stand and utter long prayers in the most conspicuous places so they could be seen by people (verse 5)—and disfigure their faces so it would appear to others that they were fasting (verse 16). Because of their religious sideshow, Jesus compared them to a cup that was externally clean but internally putrid (Matt. 23:25). He said they were like whitewashed tombs that were beautiful outwardly, but inwardly were full of dead men’s bones (verse 27). Unfortunately the hypocrisy of the Pharisees did not end in the first century.
Not only do hypocrites not walk the walk, they often criticize others who try to do so. Jesus exposed the absurdity of the judgmental hypocrite when he said, “Why do you look at the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Brother, let me take out the speck that is in your eye,’ when you yourself do not see the log that is in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take out the speck that is in your brother’s eye” (Luke 6:41-42).
The Lord’s story of the speck and the log illustrates that some of your harshest critics, may be misguided people who have an appearance of Christianity without the life-changing power of Christ within. Don’t let self-appointed fruit inspectors discourage your walk with Christ. The Lord did not save you to judge people around you, but to live for Him, showing humility and having compassion, like Him.
Ultimately, “we will all stand before the judgment seat of God” (Romans 14:10). Paul writes, “So then each one of us will give an account of himself to God. Therefore let us not judge one another anymore, but rather determine this—not to put an obstacle or a stumbling block in a brother’s way” (verses 12-13).
How much of an impact would you have if you exhibited in your life what you believe in your heart? This is what Paul meant when he wrote, “Only conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ” (Phil. 1:27). That is the reason he admonished them to “work out your salvation with fear and trembling for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure” (Phil. 2:12, 13). Their soul-salvation, which was in-wrought, was to be out-worked. They were, and we are, to walk the talk.
Songwriter Russ Lee had this in mind when he wrote: “I’m gonna live what I believe; I’m gonna walk that line. If it costs me everything, I’m gonna stand for what is right. So that everyone can see, It’s Jesus that they need. I’m gonna live what I believe.”
Accountability is crucial if you are serious about walking the talk—living for Christ in this world. You cannot do it by yourself; you need God; you need His Word; you need brothers and sisters who will urge you, teach you, pray for and help you. That is what the church is all about. The first church set the pattern for all churches when “they were continually devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer” (Acts 2:42). The effect of that church was dynamic as “Everyone kept feeling a sense of awe” (verse 43) and “the Lord was adding to their number day by day those who were being saved” (verse 47). As you grow in your Christian life in the company of God’s people, you can truly walk the walk and talk the talk for Jesus!
But, let me warn you: Although no one is perfect, if there is a discrepancy between your faith and your practice—a disconnect between your belief and your behavior—a disparity between your walk and your talk—your witness for Christ will be diminished.
What pleases the Lord and impacts people is when your doctrines and your deeds go hand in hand. As you live what you believe, the world will see human integrity, God’s grace and Christ himself in your life. For this reason Jesus commanded His followers to “Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven” (Matt. 5:16). When you walk the talk, Jesus is exemplified, God is glorified and your Christian walk is verified.