“Pharisee.” It’s not a word you might hear often in today’s society. But that doesn’t mean our churches are without them.
In Biblical times, Pharisees were seen as upright, righteous people. They knew the Law, they obeyed the Law, they taught the Law to their children.
They even memorized entire books of the Torah (the first five books of the Old Testament). We pride our children on learning just a few verses. The Pharisees’ children learned hundreds of verses at a time.
But in Jesus’ eyes, they were the lowest of the low. They were people who knew what God commanded, who followed the letter of the Law to a tee, but never really followed Him. They gave Him lip service, but their hearts were far from Him. And it disgusted Him!
Today, we see many people going to church, giving money to others, using their talents for “His glory.” But they miss the big picture! They don’t give grace to others, they harbor bitterness in their hearts over certain situations, they let their pride get in the way of them reaching out to someone who may have wronged them.
Pharisees refuse to see the fault in themselves. They cast blame on everyone else around them. They don’t dwell on the heart issues that have led them to specific situations.
Instead, maybe they gossip. Maybe they are quick to speak without dwelling on the heart issues going on. Maybe they post passive-aggressive comments on social media in the name of “discipleship” when they should be grabbing the bull by the horns and dealing with the actual issues at hand in the context of authentic community.
Chances are, some of you are reading this and know exactly the type of person I’m talking about. Some might even be able to think of someone specifically in their life who exhibits these same exact behaviors. I would wager to say that if you are reading this and thinking of another person’s errors, I’m actually writing to YOU!
Are you quick to ignore your sins and easily find the faults of others? Do you get offended too easily when someone wrongs you instead of showing grace and mercy and trying to get to the heart behind someone’s words or actions? Is it easy for you to hear of someone else’s actions and immediately judge them in your heart?
The Bible warns us against people like this. Pharisees – even modern day Pharisees – are self-righteous. They do all the right things for all the wrong reasons. They are hypocrites.
In Matthew 23, Jesus says Pharisees not only won’t enter the kindgom of heaven, but they will lock others out as well. Their self-righteous actions push people away from Christ, not towards Him.
Are we quick to point out the faults in our brothers and sisters without first looking at our actions? Are we quick to judge what someone else has said or done without first thinking about something we could have done differently to fix the situation?
Showing up to church is not what it’s about. Giving God 10% of your paycheck is not what it’s about. Memorizing scripture for the sake of “religious practice” is not what it’s about.
All of these are the right things! But if we are doing them while also harboring anger in our hearts, we are modern Pharisees. If we are allowing insecurities or jealousies or theological differences to hold us back from offering unconditional love to our brothers and sisters in Christ, we are modern Pharisees. If we are pridefully refusing to deal with the weaknesses in our lives and make them right, we are modern Pharisees. If we are dealing with hurts in passive-aggressive ways instead of correcting others in gentleness, we are modern Pharisees.
The modern Pharisee is me. The modern Pharisee is you.
We all have selfish tendencies. We all have insecurities. But by allowing those negative heart issues to guide our hearts, our vulnerability, our community, we are not only keeping ourselves out of the kingdom of heaven. We are locking others out as well.
I plead with you to examine your heart. Before you post on social media, please just call your sister in Christ. Before you participate in gossip, stop it in its tracks and shower the conversation in grace and humility.
I recently had a very public conflict with a friend. I don’t need to get into the details, but some hurtful things were said. This friend had the BEST of intentions in saying the things that were said, but they came out the wrong way. I knew that!! I knew what the real issue was. But it was still hurtful to hear.
This friend later reached out to apologize to me. Not only was there a private apology given to me, but a group message was sent to every single person that was present to apologize publicly for the things that were said and any hurt it had caused.
I’ve never had more respect for my friend in that moment.
THAT is the opposite of a Pharisee. Someone who is willing to humble oneself for the gospel, to call out any issue that might potentially lead to bitterness. Someone who is willing to lead others by example, to recognize heart issues and push others closer to Christ. Someone who can deal with hurts and heart issues with patience and gentleness and humility.
May we all recognize our inner Pharisee and check our hearts when there is conflict in our life. May we serve others wholeheartedly without any gain for ourselves. May we first reflect on our own faults before pointing out the faults in others.