Whenever I come across the word Pharisee in the Bible, my first thought is, I’m glad I’m not a Pharisee. Then I rush on to read the next verse.
Pharisees comprised a sect of Judaism. A religious bunch, they received the bulk of Jesus’ criticism over their conceited behavior and self-righteous attitudes. Though Jesus accepted most people as they were, loving them in spite of themselves, he was quick to censure the Pharisees for their legalistic approach to living life. They were the bad guys of the New Testament. I’m glad I’m not a Pharisee.
However, when I come across the word Pharisee in the Bible, I now no longer breeze past it with smug self-assurance. I now substitute the word Christian for it, which gives me the opportunity to consider if I do, at times, act like a Pharisee. Though this switch obscures the original meaning, it also makes it more personal, allowing for better self-examination.
There are, of course, other words that might work even better for some people, such as Protestant, Catholic, or Orthodox. Perhaps using evangelical or charismatic might make these verses more personal. Or insert your particular denomination, such as Baptist, Lutheran, Episcopal, Methodist, Pentecostal, and so forth. Pick the term you most identify with, use it to replace Pharisee, and let God speak to you. Then be sure to listen.
Though it’s an uncomfortable thought, I wonder if we Christians are more like Pharisees then we care to admit.
Join me on the journey!
Sign up for my weekly newsletter about biblical spirituality, and I'll send you a free e-book, How Big Is Your Tent?