Continuing this post from last week, here are three more ways to tell if you’re a Pharisee. These are taken from a sermon at Christ the King Church called “Barriers: Religion.”
#4 Pharisees don’t extend grace to others.
The Pharisees were not interested in restoring this woman who was caught in adultery. Grace was not part of the equation. They seized the opportunity to condemn her simply because it served their desire to trap Jesus.
We can see this in our own hearts when we fail to forgive, or when we hold grudges, or we seethe with anger over things other people do. The Pharisee feels as though she has the right to be treated better and when this doesn’t happen she becomes angry and bitter and unforgiving. The Pharisee is upset by the sin of others because she feels that “I deserve better than this.”
#5 Pharisees practice selective repentance.
Pharisees will repent of things they find easy to control so they can claim mastery over a particular area of sin. Since Pharisees focus on external things, they can find other little external things to “repent” of so they can appear even more holy and righteous.
Jesus said, “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cumin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness” (Matthew 23:23ff).
We can do this to. People who struggle with sexual temptation and lust can find some refuge in having the “right doctrine.” Other people might have poor doctrine but pride themselves on being good at evangelism. Others might be bad at evangelism so they get on their financial stewardship hobby horse.
There are fine convictions in themselves, but we shouldn’t hide behind something we’re good at in order to avoid repenting of things we’re really struggling with.
#6 Pharisees are prone to pet issues.
The Pharisees’ pet issue in this story is sexual immorality. They feel high and mighty about sexual immorality because that’s not something they’re guilty of. The woman is. She violated their pet issue. So they feel important about trumpeting their holiness in this area because they think no one else “gets it” like they do. And the more they feel no one else gets it the more strongly they circle the wagons around their pet issue.
In many churches today, Christian pet issues abound. People get all worked up about various parenting methods, political ideas, educational approaches for children, secondary doctrines, and so on. The list is seemingly endless. And even though these may all be very important things to discuss and develop convictions about, these things can’t be pet issues that we use to condemn others for to make ourselves feel smarter.
The gospel gives us a different approach. The gospel leads us to extend grace to others because we ourselves are also in need of radical grace. The gospel frees us to repent of any and every sin, no matter how seemingly big or small, because it has already been forgiven in Christ. And the gospel is the ultimate standard by which we evaluate our pet issues and convictions.