Gustave Doré: Dispute between Jesus and the Pharisees
In today’s post I would like to introduce the topic a little better for this new category.
In Jesus day there was a group of people called the Pharisees. This was a sect of Judaism that was very legalistic in nature. The rules that had to be followed were seemingly endless, it was a heavy load for anyone to bear. Not only were the Ten Commandments to be followed, one had to follow all of the Mosaic Law as well. On top of this one was also required to follow the Oral Torah, supposedly passed down from Moses to Rabbi after Rabbi. Mixed in with this was the need to follow any Jewish tradition the Rabbis deemed appropriate. Does this all sound like it is a bit much to carry?
It was said that the Pharisees were legalistic even back then, but the meaning may have been that they (the Pharisees) observed the law the best. In today’s world, we see them as being legalistic. We also know they worried more about appearance then what was contained on the inside, hence Jesus harsh words with them.
13 “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You shut the kingdom of heaven in men’s faces. You yourselves do not enter, nor will you let those enter who are trying to. 15 “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You travel over land and sea to win a single convert, and when he becomes one, you make him twice as much a son of hell as you are. 16 “Woe to you, blind guides! You say, ‘If anyone swears by the temple, it means nothing; but if anyone swears by the gold of the temple, he is bound by his oath.’ 17 You blind fools! Which is greater: the gold, or the temple that makes the gold sacred? 18 You also say, ‘If anyone swears by the altar, it means nothing; but if anyone swears by the gift on it, he is bound by his oath.’ 19 You blind men! Which is greater: the gift, or the altar that makes the gift sacred? 20 Therefore, he who swears by the altar swears by it and by everything on it. 21 And he who swears by the temple swears by it and by the one who dwells in it. 22 And he who swears by heaven swears by God’s throne and by the one who sits on it. 23 “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices–mint, dill and cumin. 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. 24 You blind guides! You strain out a gnat but swallow a camel. 25 “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. 26 Blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and dish, and then the outside also will be clean. 27 “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of dead men’s bones and everything unclean. 28 In the same way, on the outside you appear to people as righteous but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness.
Are we not sometimes like this? Observing the proper rules and etiquette, doing what we know is considered to be “normal” so that we fit in? I know I have done this at times. We do as we are expected to do, agree with the status quo, looking good on the outside regardless of what is happening or not happening on the inside.
Do we sometimes worry more about appearance then what the condition of our heart is? I am not here addressing those who say, go to church and their heart is not in it once in a while, we all have those days. Rather I mean people that often are at church because it is a duty, it is expected as part of ones standing in the community. Unfortunately these types of people even serve as elders and deacons…part of their “image”.
The Sunday Christian, you know the ones…they come to church sometimes, or even faithfully. The rest of the week is spent living life for themselves, no bible time, no prayer, and no service to the church.
How about divisions in the church? What about those who serve and make decisions on such things as the new carpet’s color, and this turns into a serious problem and causes hard feelings. All because someone could not have their way, does this seem like proper behavior for God’s people?
Would we not as God’s people be better off to work on the inside of ourselves, verses trying to imposes our “rights” and our “mindset” on others? We all need to follow the rules whether they are societies rules, churches rules, or our parent’s rules. At the same time though, we must not neglect having a focus on the inside. Are we working on matching up the inside to the outside? Are we seeking to improve our relationship with our Father in heaven or are we just coasting along?
What about the spec in our brother’s eye? Are we trying to take it out while ignoring the large plank in our own eye? I have to admit I have done these things, have you?
Do we only follow what is taught in church when we are in church, or when we know others are watching? The gap between what we profess to believe and the way we act when alone is hypocrisy. The true you is the person you are when alone.
What are your thoughts on these things? Are you willing to share anything about your journey? I invite you to participate in this journey as we look into our struggles as Believers together.
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Very good words, Greg. We are wise to understand that left to ourselves, we will always gravitate toward ceremonial religion. Without grace-driven effort, we will make the cross of Christ supplemental rather than fundamental to our every step in this life. A great encouragement for us to ponder and take hold of… at the root of your work is what has eaten away the church’s influence in the world. Thanks, good friend.
Ceremonial, that is key. What we do before the Lord needs to be real, not ceremonial. By God’s grace we can do better.
Thanks for the comment.
Very well said! Legalism is found everywhere, and all too often in the name of ‘religion.’ I find it very telling that Jesus did not speak harshly to anyone as much as he did the religious leaders of the day. I truly believe that the moment that we think that we’re “all that,” we’re done for. Pride is the one of the worst kinds of sin; humility is one of the best attributes that we can have.
Well stated comment, I agree completely. We must be careful to teach the Gospel and not add to it, nor take away. At the same time we must be ever watchful of hypocrisy in ourselves. Thanks for the comment.
>> “The true you is the person you are when alone” –
So true! and it is also the person I am on the inside: like the times I might smile sweetly, but harbour not-so-smily thoughts; or when I do something thinking on the inside that someone else should have done it.
Pharisaical? Hypocritical? Guilty! – but forgiven!!!!! Forgiven and empowered not to repeat the performance – provided I allow Him to control me.
What an amazing God!
Yes, we serve an amazing God, by His grace. Thank you for sharing Angela.
How about these common situations of hypocrisy?
I commit my life to the Lord to be His witness/instrument as He leads me
– when He prompts me to share the love of God with my boss .. I say, no leave him for someone else to share with him, he does not deserve the peace of the Lord .
– when He shows me that there are many seniors among the China earthquake victims who have lost their families, and have no heating or even sufficient layers of clothes to keep them warm in cold winter and I spend on luxuries or branded clothes piling up in my wardrobe, unused or used by the number of times less than the fingers of my hand, which I do not need but for show or keeping up with the Tans… forgetting that if I give a blanket to one of these, I am giving it to the Lord.
– when I hear a message that says I must forgive and I turn away from the Church council member who has “sabotaged” my proposal for church expansion for valid reasons, which has bruised my ego and earnest effort to improve facilities.
– my family member has asked me to help, no I have no time because I have to do the same thing in church because it is more visible there – how often church elders/pastors have double standards for church family and to their own home family.
None of us is perfect and exempt from hypocritical behaviour, however, we must never give up, doing what is right with repentance when our eyes are opened by conviction and discernment of the Holy Spirit
Thank you ptl, true words. We all must strive to do our best, which is not easy. Then again, if being a believer was easy…everyone would want to do it.
Enjoyed the post! Exposure is what we need. It is through the light of truth that we are able to see ourselves and make the changes necessary to serve Him in truth. Thank you for this! — Sebastian
Thank you for commenting. Others do tend to see our actions so much better then we do.
It’s interesting that we only hear of Jesus being critical of the religious elite, even the worst of sinners didn’t cop the tongue lashing the pharisees got. Good writing, thanks Greg. G
Yes the worst of sinners were invited to be in the Kingdom of God! That says a lot. Thanks for the comment