It’s been some time since I’ve written a post so here you go.
For my entire childhood I was in church. If there was anything happening in the building, I was there. If there was a Bible Study, Sunday School class, AWANA meeting, Prayer service, visiting Preacher, Missionary or anything else happening, I was there. I grew up studying the Bible and memorizing Bible verses. Seriously, so many verses. This was all really great. I am so thankful that I was brought up in such a Christian environment.
I took great pride in the fact that I knew more about the Bible than all of my friends or sometimes even adults. I knew Bible history, I knew all the books of the Bible, I knew all those rules. I had a lot of head knowledge. However, I was lacking something. At no point in my childhood or high school years can I remember doing something “Christian” because I genuinely wanted to. I loved Jesus, don’t get me wrong! But I wasn’t acting like He was the most important part of my “religion”. You see, I was focused on the things I should DO and on my outward image. Was I praying the right words? Did I sing loud enough? Did I know all the words in that Bible verse? Did I answer the discussion question in an impressive way? WHAT I believed became more important than WHO I believed in. My relationship with Jesus wasn’t even a relationship because my heart wasn’t in it. It was all about those darn rules, and my pride. The sad part is, that’s what I thought was right.
Fast forward to now.
I am so blessed to be a part of a church that has helped me grow in my walk with Christ. For real, Vista is amazing and I wouldn’t trade my time here for anything. Over the past two years I’ve matured a lot in my ways of thinking and especially in my relationship with Christ. No longer am I concerned so much about the rules. It finally clicked that to be in a healthy relationship with Jesus is to have a heart that is eager and willing to serve Him, no matter what others think or see. Even though I have developed a stronger faith there are still things that I am working on. If you know me, or have spent any time with me at all, you know that some people or things really aggravate me and get me worked up. I know that Jesus says “Love everyone” and often people tell me “what would Jesus do?” (you know who you are.) But does that mean that I really do love everyone? Do I really try to do what Jesus would?
Another example; currently I’m a worship leader at my church. Even though I absolutely love pouring my heart out in musical worship, sometimes it’s easy to get caught up in the performance of things. It’s a tricky area because you don’t want to seem like you’re trying too hard to impress others but you also don’t want it to look like you don’t care. There has been times where I feel exhausted or not particularly in the mood for being on stage and it’s been hard not letting that get in the way, or cause me to “fake it till I make it”.
It’s simple really, I am a pharisee.
Before we jump in I want to make a public service announcement. I am NOT by any means saying that I have this all figured out. I’m writing about this because this is something that has been convicting me personally. It is something I am still struggling with. If you know me at all, you know what I’m talking about. Okay, on we go!
So what do we know about Pharisees?
Most people refer to them as “hypocrites”, “prideful”, sometimes even “hated” gets thrown in there. That’s what we know of them today. If you look back into the culture in the time of Jesus you’ll find that Pharisees were actually highly respected men. It was a big deal to be one of them. They were the guys who knew just what to say and do. They were the super spiritual bunch that everyone looked up to. It wasn’t until Jesus came around and started teaching that the word “hypocrite” and “pride” was associated with the Pharisees.
So what’s the big deal?
The problem with the Pharisees wasn’t necessarily that they were “bad” people. Over all they did good things like giving to the poor, and helping in their community. The problem was that they had the wrong motives and attitudes about what they were doing. They didn’t actually care about why they were doing good things. They cared about what people thought of them when they saw them doing those good things.
In the book of Matthew it talks a lot about the Pharisees and how we should NOT be like them. Jesus is pretty straight forward about his opinions of hypocrites. One of my favorite analogies Jesus uses is when he compares hypocrites to a dirty cup, found in Matthew 23 verse 25.
“What sorrow awaits you teachers of religious law and you Pharisees. Hypocrites! For you are so careful to clean the outside of the cup and the dish, but inside you are filthy—full of greed and self-indulgence! 26 You blind Pharisee! First wash the inside of the cup and the dish, and then the outside will become clean, too.”
I love this because how many times are we so concerned about what our appearance is to others? Yeah, the outside of our cup may look nice and clean but on the inside we might be filthy. In order to truly be clean you have to work on the inside first. Naturally the outside being clean with follow. So what’s in your cup? I find myself becoming like the blind pharisee sometimes. I think things are great and that I’m “clean” but if I look closer at myself and my heart I find that things are not what they seem.
Knowing what to do and how to act is easy. Putting on a show and making a big deal about your spiritual life is something that a lot of people get wrapped up in. Day in and day out “good christians” wake up and put on their Jesus face. It’s common for christians these days to be more concerned about the legalities of our faith rather than the position that their hearts take. It’s really great to serve your community, church, family and friends. It’s really great to be kind to others and give to the poor. It’s really great to let your heart overflow in worship. However, is it great that a lot of the times these things just become the motions we go through, or the fuel for our pride?
In Matthew 6 Jesus talks about the pharisees again and how all the “spiritual” things they do are made to be these grand gestures of their faith for all to see. He says “Don’t be like them, they already have their reward, that was it for them. Instead, do those things on your own, in secret and The Lord will reward you.” (Tori Paraphrase Version) Am I doing things so that others will see, or am I doing things for others to see Jesus through me? If all I care about is people’s recognition when I do good things, than that’s the only reward I’m going to get. It won’t go any deeper than that. But if those actions are the true reflections of my relationship with Jesus, than the Lord will see and the reward will be so much deeper than human approval.
Being a Christian means that we get to live out the love of Christ. This is a unique opportunity the God gives His church. It’s time for us to open up our hearts and reflect the message of God’s love to those around us. The Pharisees of the Bible used the scriptures as a warranty for their righteousness rather than a window into God’s heart. Are we really a generation that desires to seek after God? Are we the people who truly want to be in His presence and serve Him wholeheartedly?
Or are we becoming more and more like modern-day Pharisees?