Understanding Pharisees

I was sitting up, trying to go to sleep last night, thinking about Pharisees.  I know, I know, it would probably seem like a good idea to most – a good way to fall asleep – but for me, it was keeping me awake.

You see, I think I understand Pharisees.  

grumpy2I have children.  And sometimes my children see that I am in a grumpy mood, and when they are being thoughtful, they make sure to tiptoe around me.  They do everything right.  They clean up their rooms (or at least hide everything to give the appearance of a clean room).  It makes them feel safe to do this – like if they don’t cross me, they won’t feel my wrath.

Isn’t this what Pharisees do?  They have to make certain that they are following every rule, that every “T” is crossed and every “i” is dotted.  Maybe it’s because on some gut level they think of God as being a grumpy dad, stomping around the house looking for an excuse to seek vengeance.  

pharisee-and-tax-collectorThe Pharisees of Jesus’ day have every right to have acted the way they did.  As far as they were concerned, according to the Jewish holy books of the time, God was pretty angry, pretty often.  And so they did their best to keep the law.  The problem is, if we can go back to the God as Father idea, that no parent wants his or her children to be obedient out of fear – fear of condemnation, fear of punishment, fear of wrath.  I want my children to do the right thing for two reasons – out of love, and because doing the right thing is the right thing to do.  And this is the picture we’re given about God in the New Testament.

What picture does the Word give us about God as father, compared to us as parents?

“Which of you, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!” Matthew 7:9-11

So, if I want my children to do the right thing for the reasons given above, how much more would God desire that?  

And this is where we get back to the Pharisees of our time.

Yes, it does seem like it would be safer if we did everything exactly right – exactly the way God wanted us to.  The problem is first of all, that it is impossible for us to do so.

“As it is written, None is righteous, just and truthful and upright and conscientious, no, not one.  No one understands [no one intelligently discerns or comprehends]; no one seeks out God.  All have turned aside; together they have gone wrong and have become unprofitable and worthless; no one does right, not even one!” Romans 3:10-12

Does this mean we shouldn’t try to do the right thing?  No, of course not.  But it does mean that God is a God of grace, that if I understand when my kids screw up, how much more will God understand when we do?  And if I forgive and continue to love my children when they disobey, how much more will God do so?  

So, if you are a modern day Pharisee, I’d invite you to meditate on the words of Ephesians 1:3-14, and realize that God is not the grumpy, sleep-deprived dad looking for an excuse to smite his children.

“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ.  For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will— to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves.  In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that he lavished on us with all wisdom and understanding.  And he made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ, to be put into effect when the times will have reached their fulfillment—to bring all things in heaven and on earth together under one head, even Christ.

In him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will, in order that we, who were the first to hope in Christ, might be for the praise of his glory.  And you also were included in Christ when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation. Having believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession—to the praise of his glory.”

Amen.

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9 thoughts on “Understanding Pharisees

  1. On January 11, 2009 at 8:53 pm lee Said:

    james oldfield,
    you said god asked the first question in the bible just a few nights ago.but that’s not the truth is it?

    Gen 3:1 Now the serpent was more subtil than any beast of the field which the LORD God had made. And he said unto the woman, Yea, hath God said, Ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden?

    now if i use johnnys criteria that would make you a liar and anything else you say is not to be believed.
    but that’s a little harsh isn’t it?
    just run along……….and be more careful next time.
    lee

  2. you see, lee, its ok for James and Johnny to be mistaken on minor things, and its ok if you belong to their party, but dare you not do the same thing…if so, hell is your road….seems a bit unfair doesnt it???

  3. Guys, I have been digging hard into the teachings of the Church Of Christ for sometime now ( a lot last year ) and have met many dear Church of Christ friends in blogtown. I was shocked, that many do not adhere to the teachings of Johnny and men like him. Even those who believe exactly as Johnny, do not possess the same attitude towards people. But, I have learned that the conservative side of the church of Christ are wrong on many issues, even are legalistic at times.

    If Johnny is so inclined to debate and prove his views to be right, he should start with those within the Church of Christ. I would be glad to point many Church of Christ brethren his way, if he is wanting to show that his views are correct. Sadly, I think he may fall in this Pharisee category, even may be the god of Martinsville church of Christ. Harsh words, but they came from a form preacher, who preached there for years and was trained by Johnny. This former church of Christ preacher said, “ Johnny runs things there, and I told him that he was the god of that church.” This former preacher also said, “ I swept many things under rug, while preaching there.” Guys, my point is this: don’t let this man, Johnny Robertson and his “few” followers convince you, that the Church of Christ are all this way, because they are not…

  4. I ran across a great book that I was given several years ago, 12 steps for the recovering pharisee (like me). I suggest the CoC get a copy and read it, they might find it a freeing experience or totally false teaching. 😉

  5. To be fair, we can all have pharisaic tendencies from time to time. And the root of the pharisaical behavior isn’t bad – it’s a desire to be obedient. The problem though, is missing the forest for the trees, and that’s what the pharisees of Jesus’ time were guilty of. That, and thinking their/our actions and behaviors will do the job in earning them/us a place in heaven.

  6. I have to respectfully disagree, the root is wanting to feel superior to others by making them less. You can find it in almost any work place where a boss belittles others or a coworker belittles others to make themselves appear more. One axiom I have lived by in my work is that you can advance by tearing others down or building others up, it is easy to advance by tearing others down, generally it works, or I have seen it work. I would rather not advance then choose to do that to others because I have had it done to me by others, however the world seems to reward this behavior.

    So the root is ego, if it was simply wanting to be obedient then we would be and we would not decide to judge others to feel better about ourselves. We would stay focused on the bolder in our own eye and less on the pebble in others.

    But ego is ego and be it advancement in the work place, gossip about others at work or about church or the most destructive strain, that of the pharisee, it happens more then it should. I wonder has anyone heard the CoC teach on gossip since gossip is hated by God, but then again to do so would be hypocritical since the TV show is almost totally focused on gossip about others.

    So I do not agree that the root of this is good, but actually it is a trap that can and will suck everyone in if we are not careful to mind our minds!

  7. Rom 14:1 Him that is weak in the faith receive ye, but not to doubtful disputations.
    Rom 14:2 For one believeth that he may eat all things: another, who is weak, eateth herbs.
    Rom 14:3 Let not him that eateth despise him that eateth not; and let not him which eateth not judge him that eateth: for God hath received him.
    Rom 14:4 Who art thou that judgest another man’s servant? to his own master he standeth or falleth. Yea, he shall be holden up: for God is able to make him stand.
    Rom 14:5 One man esteemeth one day above another: another esteemeth every day alike. Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind.
    Rom 14:6 He that regardeth the day, regardeth it unto the Lord; and he that regardeth not the day, to the Lord he doth not regard it. He that eateth, eateth to the Lord, for he giveth God thanks; and he that eateth not, to the Lord he eateth not, and giveth God thanks.
    Rom 14:7 For none of us liveth to himself, and no man dieth to himself.
    Rom 14:8 For whether we live, we live unto the Lord; and whether we die, we die unto the Lord: whether we live therefore, or die, we are the Lord’s.
    Rom 14:9 For to this end Christ both died, and rose, and revived, that he might be Lord both of the dead and living.
    Rom 14:10 But why dost thou judge thy brother? or why dost thou set at nought thy brother? for we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ.
    Rom 14:11 For it is written, As I live, saith the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God.
    Rom 14:12 So then every one of us shall give account of himself to God.
    Rom 14:13 Let us not therefore judge one another any more: but judge this rather, that no man put a stumblingblock or an occasion to fall in his brother’s way.
    Rom 14:14 I know, and am persuaded by the Lord Jesus, that there is nothing unclean of itself: but to him that esteemeth any thing to be unclean, to him it is unclean.
    Rom 14:15 But if thy brother be grieved with thy meat, now walkest thou not charitably. Destroy not him with thy meat, for whom Christ died.
    Rom 14:16 Let not then your good be evil spoken of:
    Rom 14:17 For the kingdom of God is not meat and drink; but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost.
    Rom 14:18 For he that in these things serveth Christ is acceptable to God, and approved of men.
    Rom 14:19 Let us therefore follow after the things which make for peace, and things wherewith one may edify another.
    Rom 14:20 For meat destroy not the work of God. All things indeed are pure; but it is evil for that man who eateth with offence.
    Rom 14:21 It is good neither to eat flesh, nor to drink wine, nor any thing whereby thy brother stumbleth, or is offended, or is made weak.
    Rom 14:22 Hast thou faith? have it to thyself before God. Happy is he that condemneth not himself in that thing which he alloweth.
    Rom 14:23 And he that doubteth is damned if he eat, because he eateth not of faith: for whatsoever is not of faith is sin.

    i have read this many times before but today all i could think of
    was how this must apply to the coc.
    let the word wash all over you……..
    lee

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