The Lord values consistency. Of course, we can be consistent in being wrong, but being inconsistent in being right is not necessarily a virtue either. Inconsistently arriving at truth once in a while still means that somehow our process for thinking and drawing conclusions is missing something. Inconsistencies expose our weaknesses. We recognize this when it comes to moral behaviors. If we are honest in one area but dishonest in another, our inconsistency will not be seen as virtuous; rather it will be seen as hypocritical. This was the problem of the Pharisees Jesus warned against:
“The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses' seat, so do and observe whatever they tell you, but not the works they do. For they preach, but do not practice” (Matt 23:2-3).
Several times in His rebuke, Jesus said, “woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites!” Some of their hypocrisy was based largely on their inconsistencies. They demanded of others what they would not do and made laws that they themselves would not follow.
Inconsistency is a major problem with the type of judging Jesus warned against (Matt 7:1-6). It is imperative to understand that the measure by which we judge others will be used against us. “You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother's eye” (v. 5).
This dovetails into the point James makes about how we treat others. He describes the difference in treatment given to those who are poor compared with those who are rich. We treat people inconsistently, and this results in the sin of partiality. “If you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself,’ you are doing well. But if you show partiality, you are committing sin and are convicted by the law as transgressors” (Jas 2:8-9).
Inconsistency is also the problem with trying to serve both God and mammon (Matt 6:24). How can we legitimately hold allegiance to both at the same time? Jesus said it was not possible. Inconsistencies in such cases are dangerous and soul-damning. We become blind to what we are doing.
The wise man wrote, “Unequal weights and unequal measures are both alike an abomination to the LORD” (Prov. 20:10). This proverb speaks to dishonesty and corruption. It also speaks to the problem of inconsistencies. Not all inconsistencies are dishonest, but once an inconsistency is detected, we will seek to correct it, ignore it, or defend it. Ignoring it or defending it are not honest ways of going about our business. We might innocently not realize that there is something unequal, but once that is brought to our attention, how could we then defend the unequal balance? This would be an abomination to God.
The same principle applies to our biblical studies and doctrinal positions that we hold. We need to strive to be consistent in how we learn, argue a view, and make applications. This is not easy to do because it demands close attention to how we study, teach, and apply Scripture. It is possible that we hold inconsistent positions because we just haven’t thought much about it, studied it, or followed through with the argumentation. Study is a lifetime project for God’s people, and to think that “my knowledge” and “my understanding” of every single passage and issue is absolutely right in every detail does not speak well for humility.
“If anyone imagines that he knows something, he does not yet know as he ought to know. But if anyone loves God, he is known by God” (1 Cor 8:2-3).
We need to remain teachable, open to new information we may have missed, and willing to make corrections when we are confronted with our errors and inconsistencies (read Acts 17, where people were confronted with what they needed to hear and note their reactions in Thessalonica, Berea, and Athens). This does not mean that we cannot know truth or cannot ever take a firm stand on something. It simply means that we need to keep seeking and be willing to learn and grow.
Now if we are confronted with a clear inconsistency in argumentation and we refuse to correct it, what does that say about honesty? Are we willing to maintain “unequal weights” in our thinking in order to avoid the embarrassment of acknowledging we were wrong? Or do we willingly and humbly make the correction and seek to do better? How we respond to our own inconsistencies speaks volumes about our character.
Let us seek to be consistent in both how we live our lives before God and others, and in how we study and hold forth the message of God. The Lord is consistent. He does not change. Let us seek to represent Him as consistently as possible.