Sometimes the first step in becoming a Pharisee is to label someone else a Pharisee. Throughout the Gospels, the Pharisees looked down on others while they exalted their own “faithfulness” and devotion. When the looked at other people, all they saw was sin. When they looked at themselves, all they saw was faithfulness to the law. They spent time obeying rules and patting themselves on the back for things they accomplished. The label of Pharisee, though it was a particular Jewish sect, reflects an attitude. So when we label someone a Pharisee we are often looking at an attitude we believe they possess. It is easy to label someone else a Pharisee, but when we do, we often become one ourselves.
Luke 6:2-11 is one encounter that Jesus had with the Pharisees. It was the Sabbath, and Jesus entered into the synagogue to teach. On this occasion, there was a man with a withered hand, and the Pharisees wanted to see if Jesus would heal him. In their minds, curing this man was breaking the Sabbath, and this transgression would allow them to accuse Jesus. In verse 7, Scripture says “they watched him. . .” Did you catch that word? They were watching for Jesus to do something wrong.
How many of us scoff at the attitude of the Pharisees when we read this account? We look condemningly on them and their stance. But wait just a minute . . . Let’s reflect on our own position. We become Pharisees when we adopt their same attitude toward anyone; this includes those we label as Pharisees. We begin watching for things others do wrong and forget to remove the plank in our own eye. Did you realize we can have a Pharisaical attitude toward Pharisees? No matter how much we justify our attitude toward them, it is wrong.
I understand there are people and churches in this world that do things the wrong way. Honestly, every church has flaws, but we cannot become like the Pharisees in our attitude toward these people and churches. We must extend grace and mercy to them. We must not puff ourselves up, pat ourselves on the back because we are not like them, or point the finger at what they are doing or not doing. When we find ourselves tearing apart another person because of sin, even the sinful attitude of a Pharisee, we become a Pharisee.
So, what do we do when there is a legitimate problem or something severely lacking in a person or ministry? We need to work to be part of the solution. We talk to the person or group instead of talking about them. We spend our time serving in the area we are most critical about. We must offer ourselves, without pointing fingers, to be a part of the remedy. You ask, “But who wants to work with all those Pharisees and hypocrites?” With that question, hopefully, you realize you have become a Pharisee. We all are to some extent, but are we willing to admit it?