You’re About To Discover Which Traits Turn Christians Into Pharisees

Keith KettenringChristian Living, The Uncommon Journey

Last week I did a little Facebook survey. I asked for one word or phrase to describe a modern-day Pharisee from personal experience. My interest in this topic stems back to the cliche: “It takes one to know one.” To whatever degree possible, do I recognize my own inner Pharisee just waiting to make an appearance whenever I give him a chance? Do I know what his ugly self looks like? Thank you to those who help us see ourselves for who we really are. 

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Here is what some of my Facebook “friends” wrote: 

  • They are concerned more with how something appears over what that something actually is. Appearances are everything. Jim 
  • The sense that you will not be accepted until you bring the right things to the table. You will get the handshake and smile but little else. Opinion of one will be made, without having at least one basic conversation with you. Mark
  • They are more concerned with behavior modification vs. heart transformation. Jeff 
  • The belief that the mainstream church is “lost” and need to see the “truth.” Senator
  • Biblical truth never matters to a “Pharisee”-just their own “rightness”! John 
  • As long as you check all the right boxes, you are cool. David
  • My demands of others are always greater than those I have for myself! from an experienced “modern-day” Pharisee. Gary
  • Tradition over truth, at all costs. Christina
  • Certainty–particularly about their own positions on issues (theological, social, political…) Richard
  • The clinging to of certain politics (right or left) that would make him (the Pharisee) say, “Jesus thinks like I do!” e.g. Somewhere I saw a thing that said, “What kind of gun would Jesus own?” Not tongue in cheek either. Paul
  • I agree with Richard: certainty. Chris
  • I am always struck by Matthew 5:20. The pharisee’s zeal is to be commended it seems…and we are to go beyond?! The difficulty lies in whether his perceived truth aligns with the will and teaching of God, through Jesus Christ. Paul succeeds in this (Philippians 3:3-7) We, however, not being Paul, end up having to see our own selves as missing the mark and identifying as a pharisee. Daniel
  • They believe their works bring salvation. Because of their works they also believe they are superior to those around them. Ron
  • Those who condemn others for judging them, but do not realize they are judging when they condemn those who are describing what God calls sin and letting them know they already stand judged by God and their own will to sin. James
  • Judgemental. Tanya
  • Me, way too often. David
  • Elitist. Chris 

(I edited some of these for spelling, grammar, and name recognition.) 

Can you relate to any of these? 

In summary, from the perspective of a few folks out there, modern-day Pharisees are:

  • Overly concerned about their: appearance, rightness, behavior, expectations being met, and recognition. 
  • In possession of uncorroborated opinion, ill-informed beliefs, self-delusion, self-righteousness, a sense of superiority, judgmentalism, traditionalism, and unbridled zealousness.  
  • Not living in reality or not seeing themselves for who they really are (think they are something that they are not). 
  • Searching for certainty. Theology, politics, economics, science, and social issues must fit into a logical, systemic framework. This framework becomes an end unto itself and is defended at all cost.  

That was close. I thought surely someone would say, “A modern-day Pharisee is someone who asks on Facebook: ‘Describe a modern-day Pharisee.'” 

I’m also happy to see there are others who are part of my Pharisee society. We are a gnarly bunch, aren’t we?! We know how self-righteous we are because we so readily recognize the self-righteousness of others. We’re just swinging our beam around knocking people to the ground wherever we go. 

Friends, let’s pray for humility and for eyes to see ourselves as we really are.

Let’s walk with Jesus and let Him teach us meekness.

Let’s seek first the kingdom of God and not our own Pharisaical agendas.

Let’s readily admit our blindness and need for enlightenment.

Let’s discover the limits of our rationality and become comfortable with our heart.

Thank you to all who commented on Facebook. You have helped us know ourselves better.

Dr. K