The Jews knew the Pharisees as the strictly religious people of Jesus’s day. Consequently, readers of the Bible interchange Pharisee with self-righteous. To think as a Pharisee generally requires a social group to reinforce self-righteous beliefs. As a recovering legalist, I know how easy it is to slide into self-righteous attitudes. Without an on-going relationship with God, I slide into a self-righteous grove. I make form theology or religious participation my priority, a similar experience to Is Your Religion Classic Greek?
Jesus warned his disciples to guard against the teachings of the Pharisees and Teachers of the Law. He knew that people loved rules and creating elite hierarchies based on conforming to those rules. I best protect myself from this with an ongoing relationship with Christ grounded in daily prayer and Bible study. If I drift into self-righteous territory, I harm the Kingdom more than if I became a militant atheist.
Some warning signs for when I drift near the rocks of the self-righteous.
I might be a Pharisee if I talk about church and religious activities more than God or Jesus. Further, my church functions as a mutual admiration society. Also, I attend all the services and events and think this makes me superior.
I might be a Pharisee if I demand a particular type of worship music.
I might be a Pharisee if I think that only one Bible translation exists as the true Word of God.
I might be a Pharisee if I pray only in reaction to circumstance. Similarly, I use Bible study only to prove a point.
I might be a Pharisee if I judge people before I love them. Further, I refer to any group of people as ‘hated by God.’
Focussing on Others more than God
I might be a Pharisee if I perform any religious duty to be seen doing it.
I might be a Pharisee if I believe success validates ministry.
I might be a Pharisee if I criticize a growing ministry that draws many new people. I do this before I become familiar with their beliefs.
I might be a Pharisees if I criticize a church or ministry as out of date. I base my judgement on hearsay or popular opinion.
I might be a Pharisee if I judge a person or ministry as being of little value or worth. I judge this by appearance, wealth, measurable success, great advertising, music, or marketing.
I might be a Pharisee if I spend most time defining what kind of Christian I am. In comparison, how much time do I spend praying about living as a better disciple?
I might be a Pharisee if I spend more time talking about praying, loving, or serving than I actually spend doing it.
I might be Pharisees if I will forgive anything except…
I might be a Pharisee if I think anything I have done, said, or written deserves special praise. I feel slighted unless I receive it.
Real vs. Imaginary
I might be a Pharisee if I place the needs of an imaginary category of people (like seeker) above the spiritual needs of the real people around me.
Finally, I might be Pharisee if I write a blog post like this thinking, ‘I’m not self-righteous or a Pharisee. I’m pointing out the people who are.’
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