Pharisees are all around us in every aspect of society. It is one of our cultures most seductive tendencies – to puff ourselves up by letting everyone else know how righteous we are and how lacking everyone else is. It is seductive because all we have to do is to tick a few boxes of the “righteousness of the day” and we let everyone know how special we are and can then overpower anyone else who can’t meet our superficial standards. We get power and praise. That is highly addictive.
Jesus’ life is the anti-Pharisee life. Jesus called his followers to obedience but not to legalism. Jesus opened up his arms in acceptance to sinners instead of pushing them away in shame. Jesus brought out a bowl and water to wash feet instead of demanding the highest status in the room. Jesus said to follow the laws of scripture with your heart because they are good for us not so others will be impressed. Jesus gave attention to the last and least rather than the best and cleverest.
If you think Jesus’ beef with the Pharisees was over semantics and postering then you haven’t read Matthew 23 in a while. Line after line for 37 verses, Jesus tears into the Pharisees for their hypocrisy and false teachings and virtue signaling. For example:
23 “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices—mint, dill and cumin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law—justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former. 24 You blind guides! You strain out a gnat but swallow a camel.
25 “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. 26 Blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and dish, and then the outside also will be clean.
You can avoid being a Pharisee by simply desiring all that Jesus wants to bring you even if that doesn’t come with praise, attention, status, likes, follows, and personal pride. In fact, life with Jesus may be humbling, sacrificial, full of challenges but it will be joyful, life giving, loving, hopeful, and best of all, full of Jesus’ presence. He has promised to be with us to the end of the age.
Father, help me to always choose your way and reject the way of the Pharisee.
Let the Pharisees have their acclaim and Twitter followers. There is no abundant life there.