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Protecting yourself against phariseeism, Pt. 1

Pick one. The contemporary group that has inherited the mantle of the Pharisees is: The political liberals The religious liberals The secular establishment The religious establishment We see “Pharisee,” and we think “hypocrite,” a knucklehead, a first class religious twit. The original P…
By Seth Barnes
By Seth Barnes

Pick one. The contemporary group that has inherited the mantle of the Pharisees is:

  1. The political liberals
  2. The religious liberals
  3. The secular establishment
  4. The religious establishment

We see “Pharisee,” and we think “hypocrite,” a knucklehead, a first class religious twit. The original Pharisees were a group of people who went into the religious profession because they cared about the things of God, yet they not only missed the most important divine intervention in history, they actually opposed it.

If you go back and read through the series of conflicts between Jesus and the Pharisees, you see that he had a real ministry to them. A soft confrontation wasn’t going to do the trick, so he never seemed to let them off easy. He was alternately sarcastic or condemning, calling them a brood of vipers, wicked, adulterers, blind, and tombs.

His invective heats up to a withering, gale-force level in Matthew 23, a chapter wherein he calls them “blind” four times, says “woe to you” seven times, and makes the kind of “you statements” that counselors hate 17 times!

What was it about these people that so got under Jesus’ skin? First of all, they were teachers in a largely illiterate society, so they had a lot more authority than the teachers of our day. Second, they were wrong in what they taught. Third, their lives didn’t match what they were teaching. And fourth, they were more interested in the truth they thought they knew than the truth they didn’t know.

Jesus’ outreach to the religious establishment was such a key facet of his overall ministry, we need to ask ourselves, “Who would he tangle with today?”

I submit to you that there is a good chance that, horror of horrors, you and I might be the ones he would target. I don’t know about you, but I’m loaded with reasons why that wouldn’t be the case for me, why no one would take me wrong.

It doesn’t have to be that way – we need to embrace mystery for starters. The irony is that an entire generation sees in our religious leaders what Jesus saw in his time and are leaving organized religion by the hundreds of thousands.

Comments (2)

  • Ouch! God, please help me (us) to see where we are driving people away because we are not loving You or them well. Help us to proclaim your Gospel with power and authority, and without apology. Most of all, please give us wisdom to know the difference between the two when people leave.

  • Yep, sometimes I think I feel so strongly about this that I become pharisaical in my self-righteousness.

    Thank God for grace towards people like me…

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Seth Barnes

I'm motivated to join God in his global reclamation project. He's on the move, setting his sons and daughters free from their places of captivity. And he's partnering with those of us who have been freed to go and free others.



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