The Risk in Preaching to Others - The Warrior's Journey®
Moral Injury

The Risk in Preaching to Others

Author: David Causey, USA (Ret.)

Marines lead by example, see improvements. Photo by The U.S. Marines is licensed under CC By 2.0

Do you remember the lyrics from the old Bob Dylan song, “My Back Pages”?

If you remember it at all, it’s probably from the Byrds’ rendition of the song. The words of the song generally express Dylan’s disillusionment over the self-righteous tone of the American Folk Music movement in the early 1960s. To Dylan, a lot of the music was “too preachy” and not the least bit introspective. It identified everyone else as the problem and failed to examine itself.

One stanza of the song reads: “In a soldier’s stance, I aimed my hand at the mongrel dogs who teach, fearing not that I’d become my enemy, in the instant that I preach.” In other words, he was so eager to point his finger at and condemn the teachers of morality, that he was becoming the very thing he preached against.

Yes, preaching morality to others is a very risky business. The one who preaches relentlessly to others about the error of their way runs the risk of becoming just as bad as those he or she condemns. More disturbing, they run the risk of becoming far worse.

Faux Hate Crimes

The exposure of actor/musician Jussie Smollett’s fabricated hate crime is an example of this. Smollett was so eager to point the finger at the “racist Trump-supporters” that he spun a lie when he couldn’t find any actual facts to support his accusations. It’s a common practice today. If we can’t find any dirt on someone we hate, then we’ll simply invent something. And in the process, we become far worse than the people we preach against.

Listen to the tone of those who preach the most against hate crimes. Honestly, do you detect any love in their voice? Or, is there vindictiveness? What about those who accuse others of being racist? Does their tone sound a little racist itself? And ask yourself, who is more vulnerable to being a racist, someone who’s being accused and is therefore always on their guard against it? Or, someone who believes himself to be above such ugly feelings and is too busy accusing everyone else that he never examines his own heart?

Banning “Murderers”

The UPI reported the story of a vegan bride-to-be who has banned all “murderers” (i.e. non-vegans) from attending her ceremony. She went so far as to kick two of her bridesmaids from the wedding party and dis-invited those from her family who refused to convert to vegetarian. I don’t know for sure, but I suspect that this woman, who believes meat-eaters are murderers, probably also preaches tolerance and open-mindedness. If so, then wouldn’t she become the narrow-minded bigot she accuses others of being?

Judging Others

Preaching to others and condemning others is a very risky practice. But there is a far worse danger than becoming the very thing we preach against. That greater danger is expressed in Matthew 7:1–5. They are the words of Jesus Himself.

Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.

Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?  How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye?  You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.

That’s the great danger of preaching at and accusing others. We make ourselves guilty before God. We, in our zeal to point our finger and condemn others, become the very kind of person we preach against. We’re so focused on other people’s faults that we’ve failed to notice those which have popped up in our own lives. And we anger God by our arrogance and lack of humility. This is why, when fault-finding, it’s always best to use a mirror rather than binoculars.


Dear Father in heaven, please open my eyes to my own sinfulness, bigotry, hatred, and pride. You said in Your word, “If we would judge ourselves then we would not be judged.” Please help me to examine myself whenever I feel like finding dirt on others. Search me, O God, and know my heart. See if there is any wickedness in me. Cleanse me and transform my heart. Fill me with Your love and let me be an instrument of Your peace and healing. Amen.

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In article photo: CSAF talks ops with Shaw AFB Airmen by the U.S. Air Force licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0

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