Tuesday, September 26, 2006

The Pharisaic Spirit

Hello, Gentle Readers...

Odd title for a blog: The Pharisaic Spirit. But it is a topic which I feel compelled to address.

First, who were the Pharisees? They had some good things going for them. They believed in the "One God." They believed that humankind had free will. They also believed that God was all-knowing and therefore had foreknowledge of humankinds' decisions. The Pharisees also believed in the resurrection of the dead. Great. These are all teachings that have followed history to this very day.

How did Jesus see them, though?

Matthew 23. The bulk of the writing is the reported words of Jesus about the Pharisees. Let's look at v.2 and 3: "The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses' seat; therefore, do whatever they teach you and follow it; but do not do as they do, for they do not practice what they teach."


Jesus calls them hypocrites in v.13. He tells them even though they go to great lengths to create one convert, the Pharisees and their converts are children of hell. In v.23 Jesus calls them out for being diligent to pay tithes, but neglecting the more spiritual things: justice, mercy and faith. In v.28 Jesus hits them with the righteous judgment of God: "So you also on the outside look righteous to others, but inside you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness."

This last statement, v.28, is the crux of the matter. What is a Pharisaical Spirit? It begins in the heart of a Christian with a thought. In quiet tones it whispers, "You're better than that." You're better than that skid row man who just walked in the back of the church and smells. Oh, you say hello and maybe smile. But you walk away to find your seat; the one you always sit in.

You're better than that one who does not show forth the same gifts. Certainly, you are better, more spiritual, more mature because of it. You're better than that. You smile and say hello, and then make your way to the front of the church so all can see you sing and raise your hands.

You're better than that one who sits in their seat with their head bowed, humbled by the small gift they have to offer. It may be their last dollar, but Jesus views it as the greatest of gifts in the offering plate. What do you do? You despise the offering as lacking faith, shout and make a show of putting your check in the plate, and thank God you're better than "them."

You seek places of leadership, not places of service. You seek recognition and not a quiet closet of prayer. You seek not faith, even though you talk about it all the time. You seek prosperity instead of being poor in spirit and meek in countenance. You find for yourself the head of the table.

And what is God's Word for all of this? Humble yourself before your God and kiss the Son's feet lest He condemn you! We are called to be servants, givers of life and meet the needs of the poor. We are called to be kindhearted, gentle encouragers of those who face adversity!

Galatians 6:1. "My friends, if anyone is detected in a transgression, you who have received the Spirit should restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness..." v.2 "Bear one another's burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ."

There is no room for us to have "better than" attitudes. There is no room for judgment against a brother or sister. Only God is the righteous Judge. Not a single one of us, myself included, should push away one of our own family. A good friend once said to me that Christians are the only army that shoots their own wounded. And I hate to admit that it is so.

I compel you in Christ to look inside and recognize the Pharisaical Spirit and cast it out. (It can be a subtle spirit!) I learned this lesson a couple of years ago and it was heart-wrenching. I suggest to you that our churches are full of Pharisaical Spirits that have caused us to be a laughing stock in the World. Put away this spirit and live, says the Lord. Reach out in love and kindness and restore those who have been wounded. And remember that each of us may be in the position someday to need someone to lift us up, and we would want our friends to care for us, not cast us away.

May God bless these words and carry them to fertile soil.

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