“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You shut the door of the kingdom of heaven in people’s faces. You yourselves do not enter, nor will you let those enter who are trying to.” Matthew 23:13
Pharisees in the Bible were a religious group who strictly followed the laws of Moses. They believed that memorizing and following the rules made them worthy to instantaneously wipe away all of their sins and make them better than everyone else. They looked down on the tax collectors, modern day IRS, because in those days the tax collectors made people pay over and above their regular taxes so they could pocket the extra. Tax collectors were hated by everyone similar to today. It is interesting that Jesus picked “the hated”, a tax collector named Matthew, to be part of his entourage. He knew Matthew “fixed the books” and loved him anyway. Jesus preferred a greedy tax collector over a “religious” Pharisee any day.
Matthew would go on to write the first book of the New Testament and he had a whole lot to say about Jesus and his statements about Pharisees. “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You travel over land and sea to win a single convert, and when you have succeeded, you make them twice as much a child of hell as you are.” Matthew 23:15
Jesus saw past the outside actions of these people and instead looked right at their hearts. Jesus made stunning statements, game changers, at his spirit inspired rallies. He called for “blessing the poor, being humble, fighting for justice, giving mercy, being peacemakers, being pure, and doing right even when persecuted”. This was not the status quo. He despised the Pharisees who were praying aloud in the streets so that everyone could see, and sitting at the best seats of the table, and thanking God out loud that they were not as bad as tax collectors. Jesus wanted meekness not pride. When the Pharisees saw their reflection, they saw perfection. Jesus saw selfish, evil hearted, cruel, greedy, sinful people that were completely and utterly lost. They had completely missed the message of Moses. They took the rules to the extreme. They had rules but absolutely no relationship.
In this age, modern day Pharisees have pushed out most of the younger generation from even beginning to step foot in a church. Ask anyone on the street why they don’t attend church and they may say because the church is full of hypocrites. Pharisees did not disappear during the Crucifixion. They are alive and well. Satan uses these types of people to run interference on those people who truly need a glimpse of the gospel. Don’t get caught up with the rules. Instead, seek a deeper relationship with God. We don’t go to church to check in on Facebook. We don’t attend church to “do our time” and then check out. We need to be all-in. We don’t go to church to get fed. We go to church to give of ourselves, to become workers for the Lord, not bitter judgmental zealots who lose sight of our true calling.
In years of ministry, church workers will tell you that they lost sight of the rule book (the Bible) and got caught up in the rules. They sacrificed hearts for the sake of approval. They focused on men of God instead of focusing on God. They got caught up in rituals instead of their own heart-changing revivals. These are confessions of recovering pharisees. Ask God today, to help you focus on His Word and how it applies to your heart. Be humble, be changeable, be merciful, be gracious, do all good deeds for the Lord and not to be seen. God isn’t looking for #Selfies. He is looking for us to put others before ourselves. He despises self-righteous gloating and prefers quiet acts of love without a #instagrammed photo collage for all the world to see.