Don't be like the Pharisees

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“The Pharisees and some of the teachers of the law who had come from Jerusalem gathered around Jesus and saw some of his disciples eating food with hands that were “unclean,” that is, unwashed. (The Pharisees and all the Jews do not eat unless they give their hands a ceremonial washing, holding to the tradition of the elders. When they come from the marketplace they do not eat unless they wash. And they observe many other traditions, such as the washing of cups, pitchers and kettles.) So the Pharisees and teachers of the law asked Jesus, “Why don’t your disciples live according to the tradition of the elders…?” Mark 7:1-5

Jesus then rebuked the Pharisees and teachers of the law, but not because they had man-made traditions. Their error was assuming that keeping these traditions could make them clean before God.

A minor point from the story reached out and grabbed me. It was the air of superiority flowing from their hearts.

These Pharisees and teachers of the law looked down on others who didn’t follow the same traditions that they followed. They weighed others by a standard they had set for themselves. They questioned Jesus, implying that his followers should live as they do.

This reminded me of my tradition (and yours) of memorizing book by book—a wonderful discipline but not one commanded by God. God wants all believers to know His Word and keep it in their hearts, but memorizing is only one way to accomplish that objective.

I don’t want to elevate myself to a superior status because I memorize God’s Word. I don’t want to look down on others who don’t memorize the way I do. But there’s a subtle temptation to measure other followers of Jesus by the standards I prescribe for myself. This is wrong!

Church history teaches us that many communities of faith have split over man-made traditions and self-prescribed rules. Disunity, factions, and alienation have been the result. Christ is dishonored and the church suffers ridicule from outsiders.

Traditions, in-and-of-themselves, are not the problem. The trouble arises when a few demand conformity from the masses to live by their man-made standards. “Follow us! Or else…”

Oh God, help us not be like the Pharisees.

8 comments to Don’t be like the Pharisees

  • Chérie

    Amen! I think this is one of the enemy’s favorite ploys. There is a well done 2-minute comedy clip from where a guy dressed like the devil takes this subject on and does a fantastic job of it, well,…until the NAME of our Lord is spoken….

    Janet, your heart is so tender, and that tender heart teaches us so much all week long. Thank you for sharing what you learn and never being afraid to share where you stumble—because we all stumble and we need to learn from each other. Thank you!

  • Richie Malone

    I have a horror of being like the Pharisees. And, I know that as much as that terrifies me, it ends up happening anyway sometimes. But, I hope and pray that every time pride tries to elevate me, God will point it out to me and that I will fall before him in repentance. Thank you for addressing something so sensitive in my life.

  • Shari B

    Thank you, Janet! Right on target. I so need this reminder because of my flesh (which naturally tends to be a pharisee). It’s so good to remind ourselves of what Scripture says–it says “Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you” (Colossians 3:16). For some of us, for it to dwell in us richly, we memorize it. And NOT so we can be two steps ahead of anyone else spiritually–but in order to know the Lord, to trust Him more, to obey Him, to love Him, and to have a sword in our hand when the battles come. (I’m so grateful to the Lord when my attitude does slip into pride–He is gracious and patient to point that out to me–and put me on the right path!)

  • Carmen Cole

    Very good, thank you for the reminder because I find myself measuring others and I don’t want to do that. May The Lord keep me humble.

  • Donna

    Isn’t it something that we recognize the Pharisee but do not always see it in ourselves. I do not want to be a pharisee…and I know that it is within me. Thank you for the reminder.

    • I am finding it interesting that this post is resonating with our memorizing community. You abhor the thought of being like the Pharisees and you are welcoming the warning. You are wise and humble, and I’m so thankful for all of you.

  • Josh

    A lot of people read the parable of the publican and the Pharisee and, when the Pharisee thanks God that he is not like the publican and so many other sinners, they thank God that they are not like the Pharisee!

    Whereas I, for that one, have to say, “Lord, have mercy on me, a sinner.”