When we think of the word pharisee, we envision a narrow-minded, hypocritical, self-righteous person. To call someone a pharisee is an insult. So, when we read “pharisee” in the Bible, we automatically think ill of that person.
However, a Pharisee was someone devoted to following a strict moral code aligned with Moses’ instructions, which he received from God. They were devoted to following the Almighty and did so with zealous dedication. They were the most religiously minded people in the Bible, the spiritually elite.
Paul was a Pharisee before he made a U-turn to follow Jesus. Yet afterwards he persisted in that label and the practices that accompanied it. To him, being a Pharisee was an honorable designation, not a slur of derision.
Yes, Jesus was highly critical of Pharisees, but not because of their zeal for God, rather because they got carried away, making it into something it was never intended to be. Their intentions were noble; their execution was lacking.
In some ways — the right ways — we should be more like a Pharisee: following God’s moral code and zealous for him.