The Pharisees wanted to keep the law as God commanded. So they made all kinds of rules to help them keep it. And they made it near impossible for anyone to want to come to God, because they made it so hard. I, too, want to obey God. And so the tendency is to become legalistic. Other Pharisees around me may be impressed and will cheer me on, but the lost--they will think that my brand of religion is just too "hard" and walk away. Am I impressing the self-righteous or gently impressing the need for obedience in the hearts of those who are being drawn to obey?
"Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices—mint, dill and cummin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law—justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former. You blind guides! You strain out a gnat but swallow a camel." Matthew 23:23-24
Then there is prayer. The Pharisee wanted his prayer to be heard as important, impressive, and to show others how to pray. But all God heard was self-inflated words. It wasn't a prayer from the heart. And I do the same thing. I use the "church words" when I pray (especially aloud in a group) and sometimes forget the heart words that God so wants to hear. And if the lost were listening to my prayer, would they hear a deep cry of concern for them from my heart or theological dribble that means nothing to them. Am I impressing the haughty or impressing God's desires onto the hearts of the lost?
"And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him." Matthew 6:5-8
And service. The Pharisees would never get their hands dirty to help someone in need. It would make them "unclean" and besides, what would their friends think? But the lost need us to get dirty and to meet them in the filth of sin that is their world (and was once ours). I need to not be afraid of reaching out, of touching, of helping those who need help. But like the Pharisee I sometimes wonder if anyone is watching and let the fear of what others would think hold me back. So I impress my Pharisaic friends with my clean hands and miss the opportunity to impress the lost heart with service.
When the Pharisees saw this, they asked his disciples, "Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and 'sinners'?"
On hearing this, Jesus said, "It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. But go and learn what this means: 'I desire mercy, not sacrifice.' For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners."
ugh. Yes it is easy to be a Pharisee. But when we impress the Pharisee we do little to further the kingdom of God.
"Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You shut the kingdom of heaven in men's faces." Matthew 23:13
"You act more like a Christian by your influence on the lost, then the saved people you impress.” - Dr. Alvin Reid
Lord, help me act like a Christian today...amen.
Laurel Wreath is hosting In Other Words today. Pay her a visit and read what God is teaching others through Dr. Reid's quote.