But I Want to Be a Pharisee

You might be a homeschooler if . . . you made phylacteries as a school project.

No joke. I, of all people, should know what a Pharisee is.

Ironically enough, though I tied cardboard boxes of Bible verses to my head and wrists, the object lesson never made it from my head to my heart.

So here I am, decades later, finally recognizing what a Pharisee is.

And I’m struggling. Because I really want to be one.

You see, the Pharisees had a way of setting these extra laws around God’s law . . . in order not to break God’s law.

God’s Command: Remember the Sabbath Day to keep it holy.
Pharisees’ Interpretation: Don’t pluck even a head of grain. {Oh, and don’t heal anyone, Jesus.}

Of course, they developed the art so beautifully, they felt everyone would benefit from their personal interpretations and applications. So they paraded themselves around like religious hotshots, handing out citations to anyone who broke “God’s law.”

But here’s what I admire in the Pharisees: They so desired to keep God’s law that they went above and beyond to make sure they didn’t break it.

That’s why I want to be a Pharisee.

I want to so honor and obey Christ, that I eagerly take extra precautions to live in holiness.

Before you throw up all the red flags, allow me to clarify.

I realize pleasing Christ is not up to me, because apart from him, I am nothing.
I know that I don’t need to do anything, because all “work” was accomplished for me at the cross.
It is only because he is holy that I can claim any kind of holiness.

But I kinda feel like I have a bit of “Pharisee” in me. I’m naturally a go-against-the-flow, go-big-or-go-home kind of person. When confronted with a Scripture to obey, my over-the-top eagerness sometimes causes me to go above and beyond, even if everyone around me settles for the minimum requirement.

Others may ask, “Is this really a sin?” And I’m over here like, “If this might be the line, I’m not dancing around it – I’m running away from it! Laugh all you want!”

I’m not talking legalism, but a sincere expression of submission that has no limits. Keeping temptation at a distance, so sin might be even further away. Wholehearted surrender with lots of joy. You can have all this world, but give me Jesus.

But that’s why I can never be a Pharisee. Because no Pharisee ever said that.

Their rule list was nothing more than a rule list.
They wanted to be the “good guys” that did it right. And that’s all they cared about.
They wrapped Scriptures on their bodies, but that’s as far as it got.

So instead of resting in Jesus’ provision for the hungry, they rattled off their Sabbath Day policies.

And instead of recognizing the needs of a deformed man, they worried if Jesus might heal him before the sun had gone down.

This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me.
In vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.

I thought I wanted to be a Pharisee, but I don’t want that.

I don’t want to miss the point because I’m too busy going to church or putting Christian bumper stickers on my car.
I don’t want traditions to sucker me into mindless “obedience.”
And I certainly don’t dare replace God’s words with my own.

And so I pray – may all that is external reveal a heart truly transformed by the gospel.
May others see not me, but Jesus.

And though I long to please my God, may he ever preserve me from being a Pharisee.

Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within are full of dead people’s bones and all uncleanness. So you also outwardly appear righteous to others, but within are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.

For further contemplation, read Matthew 23 and Mark 7.

 [image credit: flickr.com]


9 thoughts on “But I Want to Be a Pharisee

  1. Giiirl. I feel ya. I’m totally a pharisee a lot of the time. I like my rules. But that’s the thing- those rules don’t bring me any closer to God. I can’t earn salvation. And when the outside is clean but I’m ignoring the messy insides of my heart… yikes.

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    1. Actually, the struggle for me is not following rules to earn favor with God. My thing is, I want to set up more rules to make sure I don’t disobey God because I want to honor him that much. Which is a good thing! So, in that sense, I want to be a Pharisee! I just don’t want a rotten heart to come with it. And I don’t people to think my rules are God’s rules. Does that make sense?

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  2. Thanks for sharing this. A lot of the time we think we are on the right path and are quick to judge others.!sad huh?
    Blessings to you

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  3. I understand where you are coming from, Lydia! I do this too. I have perfectionist tendencies, want to go all or nothin’…this passionate heart has to still realize Grace is messy and it took me a long time to get humbled to realize this.

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  4. I think if we’re honest with ourselves, most of us have the Pharisee tendency. It’s a struggle to know how to love people who are in sin and yet not come across as condoning their actions… so I think we tend to either drift to one side or the other. I’m with you though. I want to be sold out to Jesus, but dont’ want to have a secret Pharisee heart. thanks Lydia!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I pray that I would be faithful to God and not be caught up in things of this world, nor things that seem right yet are wrong. I want to look as much like Christ as possible at any given moment.

    Liked by 1 person

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