Honestly, hearing that word makes me cringe sometimes because it is in one of those categories of words that we (Christians) use a little too often. If someone is being too traditional, we quickly call them religious and a pharisee. If someone is being hypocritical with their faith and life, we quickly call them two-faced and a pharisee.
Who wants to be a pharisee? Not me!
You see, in the Gospels, the Pharisees (and Sadducees) were the ones that were rebuked by Jesus quite often. It wasn’t the blatant sinner who recognized their need for Jesus that was rebuked. Rather, it was the Pharisees who did not need Jesus because they seemed to think that they had it all together. Why? Because they followed the law to the letter (and even added some “letters” of their own).
Fast-forward a few thousand years and not much has changed… there are still blatant sinners… there are still pharisees… and there are those that are somewhere in between.
And every single one of us still need Jesus.
So what really is a pharisee as we (modern Christians) seem to define them?
Simply stated: a Pharisee is someone who is more concerned about the external appearance of keeping the law, rather than an internal heart change. It is someone who holds others to a high, unattainable standard and yet they do not even attempt to hold it themselves.
I have caught myself pointing a finger and calling someone a Pharisee (not to their face of course… because that makes it OK). And I have also been called a Pharisee myself.
But with all the finger pointing, who is right?
It is so easy to call someone out and declare them to be something that we think we are not. We humans have been doing that since the beginning (i.e. Adam blaming Eve).
You see Jesus could point out a Pharisee because He fulfilled the law perfectly. He was (and is) the standard. Jesus was a stumbling block to the Pharisees. However, Him causing them to stumble was not to puff Himself up. I totally believe He did it to break down their hardcore keeping-the-law… so that they would see their need for Him.
It’s so easy to put ourselves on a pedestal and point fingers. Yet most of the time the motive isn’t to care for and restore the person we’re “correcting” but it is a desire to elevate ourselves. When we think we’ve arrived to the place of being able to call out pharisees, dare I say, we have become one ourselves.
NOT SAYING that we should not have standards or that we should not judge within the church or that we should not hold people accountable, but I am saying we need to be careful that we have not missed the boat ourselves.
So the next time you have the opportunity to call someone out (whether to their face or behind their back), check your pharisee level first and take a good look at Jesus… if you can even see Him for the plank in your own eye.