I think I would have made a good Pharisee.
People who read the Bible are introduced to this interesting group of religious leaders called Pharisees. They started as a collection of committed men who wished to separate themselves from the ordinary everyday believer. They held tight to the teachings of the Old Testament and the man-made traditions that surrounded it. The group was composed of people who sought to live in total devotion to God to the best of their ability. They fasted and prayed, they gave tithes and offerings, and they sought to know everything they could about the scriptures.
I really think I would have made a good Pharisee.
The problem that develops over time is that in their quest to draw close to God they started to look down on everyone else. They viewed their acts of righteousness as better than other people. They were more devout, more giving and more knowledgeable than everyone, so why not feel a little superior to those less committed?
Over time they developed traditions that made it more difficult for people to live out their faith. They lost sight of God and started elevating their own actions. They alone thought right, talked right and had the proper viewpoint. The Pharisees became judgmental of other people and their shallow faith shown in words and actions. Slowly this group of committed believers turned into a bad example of what it means to trust God. Rarely in the accounts of Jesus are they ever painted in a positive light. Usually, they are elevated only to show their flaws. Jesus tells his followers that their righteousness needs to exceed that of their Pharisees. Their highest goal in life was not to please God but to appear better than you.
I am sure of it; I make a good Pharisee.
I enjoy standing at the back of crowds offering a quick assessment of people’s character. I read through social media with a judgmental eye for mistakes in thinking and actions. I frequently lose sight of God while telling the world I am trying to please him. I hate to say it, but I often elevate my agenda about Jesus.
As I read the New Testament, I remind myself that I am far more like the Pharisees than I am Jesus. I do take comfort in the fact that the Apostle Paul was once a Pharisee. He said, “Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners–of whom I am the worst. But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his unlimited patience as an example for those who would believe on him and receive eternal life. (1 Timothy 1:15-16 – NIV)
Paul got it right, in God saving a Pharisee like me, he demonstrated that he can save anyone. That is true for a Pharisee like you too.