I'm in a Bible study that has been studying the gospel of John. It's been good, but I've been noticing something that's a bit disconcerting...I think I exhibit some characteristics of the Pharisees.
It seems that some of the bigger flaws in that group were: legalism, pride, self-righteousness, idolatry, and pride. I mean, we're all people and at one time or another we're all guilty of those things. But as a group they seemed to take great pride in their legalism and self-righteousness. And it was wrong!
I once heard a preacher say we usually fall into a camp of either legalism or licentiousness. The goal is to obey Christ, love others, and live in your freedoms without causing others (or yourself) to stumble. The Pharisees created a lot of extra rules for themselves and for others and oppressed people with them.
I try to have high standards. I want to be obedient. But I shouldn't take pride in my "goodness" or compare how good I am to how bad others are. When you do that you are making goodness into an idol of sorts. How is that possible? It seems kind of weird, right? I think we humans...Christians especially are great at taking good, holy things and turning them into idols because we hold them more dearly that Christ. It's tricky because it looks like we are clinging to Christ when we really aren't.
I haven't been able to make it to Bible study every week, but almost every time I go Pharisees show up in the text doing thinks like grumbling, arguing about little unimportant things that ultimately turns our focus away from worshiping Jesus and into a quarrel, loving the law more than Jesus (I'm thinking of John 5 where he heals a lame man on the Sabbath and they get on to him for carrying his mat instead of praising God for healing a man). I also think of the Pharisee who prayed out loud about how grateful he was not to be like the sinful man next to him. No grace...no compassion...no concern for his fellow man, just conceited arrogance at how much better he was. Or thought he was. How often do I do that consciously or unconsciously about other people? In that way, I'm portraying an attribute of the Pharisees.
I sort of became alarmed at myself when I was reading these things and caught myself thinking..."well, I'm glad I'm not a Pharisee!" Hmm...that sounded an awful lot like the Pharisee I talked about up above. And if I'm thinking that I think it almost makes me worse than a Pharisee. Because I have the benefit of scripture to look back and see how lost they were and how they held others back from truly knowing God and I don't want to be that person. I find myself feeling no compassion toward them when we all equally need(ed) Christ to pay for our sins. It's so easy for me to lost sight of who I am without Christ and with Christ...always always always in need of Him.
Anyway, if anyone should catch me exhibiting very self-righteous behaviors, holding unnecessary rules more valuable than Christ and holding them over others, please feel free to lovingly correct me.
Because contrary to what we Pharisees think, self-righteousness is just as bad as drunkeness and stealing, legalism is just as bad as licentiousness...it's all sin, it all requires the blood sacrifice of Jesus and to see ourselves as better than each other causes us not to see ourselves appropriately in comparison to Christ.