The Top 10 Things Pharisees Say Today

Chances are that if you’re a Christian, your desire is to be more like Christ.

That’s great.

But are you?

How would you know?

recent Barna study owned me.

The survey revealed that 51% of the North American Christians polled all possess attitudes and actions that are more like the Pharisees than they are like Christ.

In other words, the attitudes of most Christians were described as self-righteous and hypocritical.

According to the study, only 14% of Christians surveyed reflected attitudes and actions that better resembled the attitudes and actions of Christ.

What surprised me (as well as study author David Kinnaman) is how my attitudes and actions still need work…. I’m far too much like a Pharisee and not enough like Jesus. I was so bothered by it I taught an entire series about it. And you can watch a conversation David Kinnaman and I had about the research here.

What breaks my heart is that I think the Pharisee in many of us is killing the mission and effectiveness of the church.

So how do you know how much Pharisee resides within you?

 

In Defense of the Pharisees (Well, Almost Defense)

Before we jump to that, I understand that in many church circles, to simply say the word ‘Pharisee’ is to immediately conjure up an image of a villain.

Pharisee=bad.

And yet the Pharisees were, to some extent, well-meaning people. They studied the law and knew it as well as anyone.

Their downfall, among other things, centered on their self-justification and self-importance.

But there’s evidence that some Pharisees were sincerely seeking God. After all, Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea, both Pharisees, arranged for Jesus’ burial. They were sympathetic to Christ and, from what we can tell, ultimately ended up following him.

Similarly, the mission of the early church was radically advanced by a converted Pharisee—Paul.

And yet Jesus condemned the Pharisees for their pride, lack of compassion and hypocrisy.

The irony, of course, is this: the people who purported to love God most ultimately killed him when he showed up.

This isn’t about Jews and Gentiles. It’s about religious people (like you and me) who in the name of God deny who God really is.

Denying God is exactly what we do when our attitudes justify us more than they reflect the heart and love of Christ.

 

10 Things Today’s Pharisees Say

So what do today’s Pharisees say? Based in part on the research and in part from my own experience, here are the top 10 things today’s Pharisees say.

A word of caution. As you read them, don’t think about who these phrases remind you of nearly as much as you think about how they reflect your attitude and actions.

If we all do that, we will all be better off and the church will be stronger for it.

1. “If he knew the Bible as well as I did, his life would be better.”

Yup, there it is. Judgment and self-righteousness rolled up into a neat little package.

I really want people to read their Bibles. But when I get smug and superior about reading mine, I miss the point.

 

2. “I follow the rules.”

And if you do, awesome.

But that’s not what got you into Christianity, is it? You got in because of the mercy which Christ extended to you when you broke the rules.

Following the rules doesn’t keep you in the love of God any more than it got you into the love of God.

So why follow the rules? Following the rules is a response to the love of God.

And your attitude should be one of gratitude, amazement, and humility.

 

3. “You shouldn’t hang around people like that.”

I understand that we have to choose friends for our kids carefully.

But when applied to adults, this thought process stinks.

One of the reasons many churches aren’t growing is because Christians don’t know any non-Christians.

If many of us were preaching the parable about being the salt of the earth today, we’d switch it up and command the salt to stay in its hermetically sealed box and never touch any food.

Of course, Jesus said the opposite. Salt needs to get out of the box to season food.

And Jesus paid a price for that among religious people. They couldn’t fathom why he would hang out with tax collectors, hookers, and other notorious sinners.

When was the last time you hung out with a hooker?

Convicting, isn’t it? Disturbing, isn’t it?

Yes, it is.

 

4. “God listens to my prayers.”

Prayer is amazing. And we do trust that God listens to our prayers.

But, as we’ve said before in this space, prayer is not a button to be pushed nearly as much as it is a relationship to be pursued.

The smugness and certainty with which many Christians talk about prayer must strike people as weird, weird, weird.

The biblical portrait of prayer is as much about broken people embracing the mystery and majesty of a forgiving God as much as it is about anything.

When prayer becomes a predictable formula that manipulates or controls God, you can be pretty sure you’re no longer praying.

 

5. “Sure I have a few issues, but that’s between me and God.”

And if you keep it between you and God, people will never be able to relate to you.

Perfect on the outside and flawed on the inside—that’s the accusation Jesus levied against the Pharisees.

When people on the outside look at pretend-to-be-perfect Christians, it does three things:

It alienates them.

It makes them think you’re fake… because even they know we’re all broken.

It suggests God can’t help them.

The antidotes?

Transparency.

Vulnerability.

Honesty.

When you let people know you don’t have it all together but you’ve met an amazing God, many people suddenly want to join in.

 

6. “They just need to work harder.”

Jesus loved the poor and had compassion on broken people.

Many Christians today don’t.  (Self-righteousness rears its ugly head again.)

Yes, I am very familiar with the passages in scripture that talk about hard work and prudence. I try to live by them.

But when I allow my relative ‘success’ to serve as a basis to judge others… I miss mercy.

Compassion should be a hallmark of Christians. The early church’s compassion in the first few centuries after Jesus’ resurrection was one of the key reasons the Christian faith spread so rapidly, even amidst extreme persecution.

 

7. “Of course I’m a Christian.”

Few people are better at explaining the difference between moralistic self-righteous religion and authentic Christianity these days than Tim Keller.

Keller points out again and again in his preaching that religious people say things like “Of course I’m a Christian”… and that underneath is a pernicious idea that they have somehow earned the favour of God by their obedience and faithfulness.

True Christians, he says, by contrast, are filled with wonder, amazement, and gratitude that God would accept them despite their brokenness? When asked whether they are Christian, they say things like “I know, isn’t that unbelievable? Can you believe that God would extend his mercy to someone like me through Christ? I am amazed! Grateful! Overwhelmed!”

I love Keller’s heart on this.

By the way, if you want to hear an extraordinary message on the prodigal sons (sic), do yourself a favour and spend 38 minutes listening to this message.

8. “More people need to stand up for Christian values.”

As Christendom slips away in our lifetime here in the West, we long for what used to be.

But moving forward we will have more in common with our first-century counterparts in Christianity than with our 20th-century forebears. They lived out their faith in a world that didn’t share their values, but rather than fight their non-Christian counterparts, they laid down their life for them.

While some people might get very angry and demand that we stand up for Christian values, I think the biblical argument runs the other way. As I outline here, maybe one of the best things Christians today can do is let non-Christians off the moral hook.

Christians should live out Christian values deeply and authentically. But why would we hold non-Christians to a standard they don’t believe in, anyway? Jesus and Paul never appeared to do this… not even once.

 

9. “I’m simply more comfortable with people from my church than I am with people who don’t go to church.”

This is one major reason why you and your church are incredibly ineffective at reaching unchurched people.

If you want to change that, go to some parties and get to know some people who are far from God.

You will discover that God likes them. And you might discover you do too.

And people – who at one time didn’t follow Jesus –  might even start following Jesus.

 

10. “People who don’t go to church can come if they want to.”

And Nero fiddled while Rome burned.

Too many churches are all about the preferences of its members than the push of the Gospel.

Here are some suggestions on what you can do if you serve in a church where people don’t want your church to change.

 

Again, please hear me, because this is as much a challenge to me as it is to anyone else. There is a Pharisee that lives in me.

But before we leave this, can you imagine what would happen if Christians today exuded the love, truth, grace and mercy of Christ?

I think the church would be different.

What attitudes do you need to check in yourself?

What other things have you heard that are impeding the mission of the church?

Leave a comment!

84 Comments

  1. Discerning Truth on March 20, 2018 at 9:43 pm

    […] I, like everyone else, only knows and sees in part.  But the part that we see, MUST be truth as scripture interprets scripture under the direction of the Holy Spirit.  It is those who refuse to recognize that they may be seeing only in part that cause the biggest problems in Christianity.  They are like thePharisees […]

  2. RACHEL NICHOLS on February 24, 2018 at 8:05 pm

    The Pharisees were actually materialistic. They sneered at the poor–since wealth meant God was blessing your hard work.

    They were really caught up in Family Values and sneered at bachelors like Jesus and many early Christians.

    Obsessed with appearances. Looking good was more important than being good.

    Hmm. Consumed with money, nuclear families, and appearances. Sounds familiar.

  3. Alexander on January 3, 2018 at 12:34 pm

    When I started reading, I wondered if “Thank God that I am not like one of them” would be one of the things that Pharisees still say. Currently we have an older woman in our congregation who has told off some of our newer members. She has making one uncomfortable about her dress (I’ve not seen her anything I would say was “inappropriate”). Another she snapped at giving him anxiety attacks about coming back to church, and he’s a veteran suffering from PTSD.

    I could very easily say “Thank God I’m not like her” and move on, but that doesn’t help her and risks me having a Pharisidical attitude as well.

    Thanks for the reminder that I could easily run into the same trap, even if it wasn’t one of the 10 things listed.

  4. […] read 12 Signs You Are A Modern Day Pharisee or The Top 10 Things Pharisees Say Today, excellent (and funny!) articles with specific examples of modern-day, pharisaical attitudes and […]

  5. […] read 12 Signs You Are A Modern Day Pharisee or The Top 10 Things Pharisees Say Today, excellent (and funny!) articles with specific examples of modern-day, pharisaical attitudes and […]

  6. Laura on November 29, 2017 at 6:27 pm

    I just finished writing a series called “Confessions of a Former Pharisee” (about myself, unfortunately. Growing up as a pastor’s kid can kind of turn you into a “Professional Pharisee” of sorts) and was searching for some good, relevant outside articles to include as helpful links. Wouldn’t you know it but this was the first article I stumbled upon, and I was instantly hooked! Love your writing style, and I’m also a big fan of Tim Keller (I tried clicking the link to watch his prodigal son podcast, but the website was down).
    #6 Has always been a quandary for me, because on one hand, compassion, grace, mercy? Yes! Absolutely! On the other, that Protestant Work Ethic and the whole “those who don’t work don’t eat” (1 Thessalonians 3:10) thing runs deep. I find myself conflicted sometimes as these two beliefs battle it out inside of me.

    • RACHEL NICHOLS on February 24, 2018 at 7:48 pm

      2 Thessalonians has a legitimate point. Freeloading like some people in that church did is unacceptable. But there are those who are disabled/too old/unemployed so long they can’t join the work force again.

      Sadly, many modern Pharisees freely judge the poor with no knowledge of their circumstances.

  7. Woody on October 8, 2017 at 8:58 pm

    Quick Thought. Western Christianity seems to want to manipulate everything that Jesus said to suit the culture. In other words, culture heavily influences Christian thinking, instead of the teachings of the Bible and Jesus the Christ taught and lived influencing and transforming the culture. Too many spend their times (and resources) on mindless games, entertainment and pleasure, all that never bring any real satisfaction. You articles was far more stimulating than anything I’ve seen on television in the last year (with the possible exception of the Cross and the Switchblade that I viewed in part before finding your article today). I sometimes wonder if Western Christian really understand how challenging (and exciting) living the Christian life really is. Believe it or not, I “unexpectedly” ran into a hooker this week and the Holy Spirit kept me in complete control (Thank You Jesus). Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus must have had very productive, exciting and joyful lives (with it’s share of Christian challenges I am sure). I am more convinced than ever of the power of the “salt” and the “light” of Christ. The more I seek to know Christ (Philippians 3:1-11), the more exciting (and thought provoking) living the Christian life, by God’s grace, gets.

    Thank you and keep the stimulating articles coming. God bless!

  8. […] yourself and how you live (adding more honestly and humility to your words). I wrote about things modern Pharisees say today in this post (the Pharisees were an ultra-religious group Jesus strong […]

    • Tim Lutz on July 11, 2017 at 11:27 am

      Problem is we are dealing with a different type of legalist in some of the Facebook groups I belong to.
      Claim that after you receive justification then you have instant sanctification and never sin again. Quit good at adding to and twisting scripture. Pointed out three tests.
      Handle poison snakes, drink poison and sell everything and give it to the poor. At that point they do not want to converse anyore claim to shake the dust off ect.

      • Bill Everman on July 11, 2017 at 12:11 pm

        A pastor friend of mine had what in retrospect is a hilarious encounter with someone like this while he was in seminary. A fellow seminarian insisted that once saved, people could live perfectly sinless lives, while my friend disagreed. The guy who thought you could be perfect actually got so worked up over it that he punched my friend in the face…thus demonstrating his human fallibility.

      • Brady Mayo on October 22, 2017 at 11:09 pm

        Well said Tim. You are right about instant sanctification. Lordship Salvation Theology is destroying the church. These are the new Pharisees by far.

  9. […] yourself and how you live (adding more honestly and humility to your words). I wrote about things modern Pharisees say today in this post (the Pharisees were an ultra-religious group Jesus strong […]

  10. DavidJCCooper on March 10, 2017 at 8:36 am

    No mention of loving enemies, forgiving seventy times seven or rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents. This still reduces Jesus to pablum. Herod’s slaughter of the innocents recognized as soon as Jesús was born that he was the end of the kingdoms of this world.

  11. ServantHeart2012 on March 8, 2017 at 1:18 pm

    I saw an advertisement for an upcoming “preaching seminar” on Facebook recently. Several communicators, some pastors and some just great communicators, would present their ideas on “how to preach great sermons” over a few days. Some of the comments about the event were from “experienced pastors” and were very self righteous and judgemental toward one or more particular communicators. One even said ; “The LAST person anyone should listen to about preaching is ______ ______!” I commented I was disappointed that a fellow believer and church leader would behave in this way on social media and received a lengthy response (rebuke) replete with selected scripture verses (taken out of context, but that “fit” the situation) and admonishments regarding false teaching, etc. The closing was “Thanks for taking time to comment and God Bless!” Really? Really!?!
    I don’t know where this “pastor” is “serving” but I’d be willing to bet if I showed up on Sunday I’d have to undergo a “Believer Background Check” before being admitted to the worship service.

  12. Paisley on November 5, 2016 at 5:48 pm

    ex-Christian atheist here, but I read something recently you might find interesting: Atheists, they say, find it much easier to not be hypocrites because they choose which things they want to live by. This is an interesting concept in relation to what you write here … having been a Christian and an atheist, I feel more consistent with my beliefs as an atheist, for what that’s worth.

    • C on May 20, 2017 at 6:20 am

      You were never a Christian then and just a false convert. You love being an atheist now because you love your sin. You self righteously make up your own rules and moral standards to accommodate your sinful lifestyle.

      • Bill on May 30, 2017 at 10:14 pm

        Or perhaps this is someone who is struggling with difficult faith questions. Or someone who is in pain. Or someone who needs to be loved instead of judged. Or someone who has contemplated an eternity with people as judgmental as yourself and chosen to avoid that fate.

      • Ellie on August 15, 2017 at 9:15 pm

        C with the Pharisitical response🙄

      • Brady Mayo on October 22, 2017 at 11:11 pm

        You are exactly the type of Pharisee that the article is talking about. Exactly!

      • Katy on April 30, 2018 at 11:14 am

        Ooh, judgmental.

        • Brady on April 30, 2018 at 11:55 am

          Katy: “ooh judgemental”
          Katy in response to C: “You were never a Christian then and just a false convert. You love being an atheist now because you love your sin. You self righteously make up your own rules and moral standards to accommodate your sinful lifestyle.” No words need to be said.

    • Jess on June 14, 2017 at 5:54 am

      Your an idiot

    • RACHEL NICHOLS on February 24, 2018 at 7:56 pm

      The abusive hypocrites I went to church with nearly drove me away from the cross.

      Sorry you lost your faith, Paisley. Can’t be too hard on you since I tried to become an atheist years ago.

      My Christian beliefs saved my life. I freely admit I’m weaker than you. My life stinks too. Only a hope of Heaven makes me smile some days.

  13. Kyle on November 4, 2016 at 1:16 pm

    Number 11: “Thank God I am not like those Pharisees.”

  14. Christy Clark on July 13, 2016 at 1:33 pm

    I had to walk away from my old friends when I became a Christian. I could no longer go out partying because I would fall off the wagon. It took years to building my faith before I could face my old drinking buddies without getting sucked into drunkenness, drugs, and the whole nine yards. Telling young kids that they need to go out to parties (which they mostly do anyway) is to play with fire if you don’t first prepare them for battle.

    • Robert Mayforth on March 10, 2017 at 7:38 am

      Good

  15. Tim Zuck on July 10, 2016 at 8:37 pm

    The link to the post about “letting non-Christians off the moral hook” isn’t working.

    • Robert Smith on November 4, 2016 at 5:23 pm

      Not working for me, also i’d be interested in the PDF with questions, but that link isnt working either.

  16. Travis Stephens on November 22, 2015 at 8:04 am

    “When was the last time you hung out with a hooker?” LOL

    • Tim Lutz on July 11, 2017 at 11:22 am

      Not hard to do when you drive truck. There are many who are seekin for the living waters in all the wrong places.

  17. christoph on June 15, 2015 at 4:48 pm

    Love all your posts. #9 is so true. Just think about how many “fellowship” events my church has and how many “outreach” events

    • Carey Nieuwhof on June 15, 2015 at 5:16 pm

      Thanks Christoph. Are we about ourselves…or others? Have to constantly push myself on that one.

  18. Andrea Boggan on May 21, 2015 at 6:31 pm

    Christ is not in a building, we are the church. The church is inside us. Jesus said, “The kingdom of Heaven is within you.” He also taught us to pray, “Our father who art in Heaven.” He also said, “I and my father are one.” Heaven in me, father in heaven, Jesus and father are one, Jesus is in me…The holy spirit. I was the old wineskin that you do not put new wine in or it will be wasted. I am a new wineskin and the word (wine) has been put into the new wineskin. The sincerest form of “Praise” is emulation. I heard people at church saying, “Praise Jesus, Praise Jesus” but had no idea what they were doing, they were just following suit. They were Pharisees. The church I attended for years had all these rules and traditions, that if you dared change even one of them, they would walk out in hoards. I have always had a longing for God. After my mother died, I was invited to go to this church. I was so hurt and broken. I have lived a wily life this is true, and had many guilt’s in my heart. I became their new project where they could show each other their Christian Charity. I had become so depressed over my mother’s death that I could barely get out of bed. I had to go on disability, and they offered to pay bills that I could not afford. I felt bad about this, because I have always made my own way in life, but they insisted and I relented because I did need help. It wasn’t long before I realized that if I didn’t obey the rules, there would be consequences. I had become so indebted to them, that I lost my will and wished I could die. At first when I was ignorant, I wanted to be good like those “Good Christians” who were holy and prayed all the time. I wanted to be like them, so I dressed like them, talked like them, and looked like them. As long as I was like this, I was accepted. But the moment I would question anything, they would jump on me that what I was thinking was wrong and a sin. As I delved into the bible, it then started making sense to me what Jesus is saying. I was able to understand his parables and his words took root in my mind (the seed and the worked soil). As a woman, I was not allowed to speak. They had these rules that Paul in the bible said it is not comely for a woman to speak in church. The rules were that no woman could minister to a man, or minister to anyone. Our role was that of childbearer, and to serve the men. Cook and clean, smile, be pretty, take care of the babies and remain silent. I was in a women’s bible study and the main topic was the latest recipe, and pictures of kittens, puppies and curly blond haired, blue eyed baby Jesuses. The latest recipe for Key Lime pie, or a danish recipe that is guaranteed to fill the appetite of the hungriest man. One woman burst out with great excitement, “If you want to keep your terry cloth towels fluffy and absorbent, don’t use softener in the rinse cycle.” Cleave unto thy husband. I am not married, so I don’t cleave to any man. I think they miss the point that Jesus is the bridegroom and we are the brides (male and female) in that he gives and we receive of his spirit and that is what we cleave to. They were mostly concerned with what Paul has to say more so than Jesus. Jesus told his disciples and particularly Peter (the rock) “to beware the leavening of the Pharisees.” Paul, was Saul of Tarsus a Pharisee. From just past ACTS on, it is I Paul, I Paul, I Paul. Religion is works based, in that you have to do or be this and that to please God. Not by works lest any man should boast, but by faith and God’s grace are we saved. As I read what Paul and others were saying and what Jesus is saying, I realized that Paul started a Jesus religion…Christianity. All these rules about our dress and behavior mixed with Spirituality. The thou shalts, and the thou shalt nots. Clear, clean water that has been salted becomes salt water. One day I was sitting in a pew by myself bored with the “Jesus Theater” that was going on. I was thinking about something else when I had this feeling of “cool water” flow through me. I took a deep breath in and I breathed out and this release came over me. It wasn’t long that when those people would come up to me and comment, “Oh you look so lovely today, or Oh how pretty you are”, I could see right through them and they knew it. Nothing about me on the outside had changed, not my dress, my behavior or how I said things. But when I looked into their eyes they knew I could see them, and they soon began to avoid me. It was at a Candlelight ceremony at Christmas time and I brought with me a lot of food and set it up on one of the tables in the dining area where all the other women had done the same. No one would come to my table to share the food I brought. I spoke out when it came time for the election of new elders. Only men can be elders and they asked us to call out in the worship service who we thought we wanted to be a new elder. I called out a woman’s name. I received a phone call at my home, and was told that it is best that I remain silent. I was eventually asked not to return to church (shunned). The minister asked me if I was trying to take over, and I asked him, “do you think you have the corner on God?” He has a Phd. in G.O.D. and everyone bows down to this man. They were going to come to my house en mass and point out the error of my ways. I told them if you bunch of yahoos show up at my house you are going be in for big surprise. They didn’t show up and I never returned. When I was asked not to come back, I told them that the only thing that I regret is that you didn’t tell this to my face so that when I left the building I could kick the dust off my shoes as a testimony to them. Jesus led me out of dominion and got me back on feet again. I don’t work it, I believe him and when I pray for spiritual bread that feeds me and enlightens me I do so in the quiet of my home (closet) with my lips closed and believing whatsoever I ask, I shall receive. No, I am not a Christian, I am not religious, I am spiritual and my faith is Jesus the Christ.

  19. Jeff on January 29, 2015 at 11:59 am

    I loved this article after I read it. I seriously many think Christians don’t rejoice much because they think it’s unspeakable. “Why should we start now?” Instead we talk about sports and recipes or the kids.

    • Jeff on January 29, 2015 at 12:00 pm

      oopies…”I seriously think many”

      • Jeff on January 29, 2015 at 12:52 pm

        When I go to worship, I think of every time the voices told me I had to live my life for a lesser punishment in Hell. How depressing is that? Or I think about the cyber-bullying that happened in 2008 that I still have no clue if it really happened or who it was. By God’s grace, I now know I deserved it. When I worship I think about things like that that Christ delivered me from or through. I often think about my mental illness and how blessed I am to have it because it led to loving Christ. And when I don’t….I’m like a gigantic SUV just wasting away the things to be worship and adore Christ for.

        • Wojtek on May 20, 2015 at 7:13 pm

          I think that Jesus is Loving You 🙂 And He can give You healing

        • Andrea Boggan on May 21, 2015 at 6:36 pm

          When you realize that God is Love, and God is mercy, and believe that when you ask for forgiveness for real or perceived wrongs, your sins are washed away and you are white as snow. If you don’t believe it then it isn’t so for you. Faith the size of a grain of a mustard seed and you can say to that mountain ‘Move thence’ and it will move. The greatest prison bars are those in our minds. Religion is dominion, a cruel task master that imprisons the mind. Jesus came to heal the sick, make the blind see and free the prisoners. Believing Jesus will break those prison bars in your mind and you will be set free. He said, I am the way, I am the life and I am the truth, and the truth will set you free. He came to free us from everything that imprisons us, heal us of our spiritual sickness and open our eyes (enlightenment).

  20. John M. Harris on January 21, 2015 at 5:05 pm

    To be fair, both Jesus and Paul are presented as Pharisees in the NT

    • Isaac on January 29, 2015 at 10:44 am

      Hi John. I’ve seen you leave this same comment on two separate articles here. Out of curiosity, where in the Bible is Jesus ever referred to as a pharisee? And consider this, Saul was a Pharisee until he met the risen Lord, at which time he became Paul the Apostle.

      • Jeff on January 29, 2015 at 10:58 am

        To be fair to John, I kind of assumed it was because they called Him “Teacher” and “Rabbi” but….He actually didn’t have any formal religious training because…He didn’t need it. He’s God.

        • Jeff on January 29, 2015 at 11:09 am

          Unless of course you don’t believe He is God and at that point I would be delighted to give you Old Testament Scripture that doesn’t give any wiggle room as to that truth. Or I could point out the generosity and sense of love in nature as evidence of His Divine Nature. But it’s really a matter of faith and not debate.

          • Isaac on February 18, 2015 at 3:05 pm

            Yeah, I’m not really sure how you got onto this rabbit trail. I don’t see anyone denying the divinity of Jesus here.



  21. Angela Demmans on November 1, 2014 at 6:01 pm

    The book The Accidental Pharisee is on my reading list because it addresses this very issue… love Tim Keller I am going to listen to the message… I once read (sorry don’t remember where) “God is not opposed to effort, He is opposed to earning.” This reminds me that He judges my motivations… #9 for me is the reverse… I am probably more comfortable with non-Christians because my expectations are different and that right there is a problem because my expectations should be, to some extent, the same… people are people… not one twinkle of our righteousness is self-generated… it is all wool (God-made) not acrylic (man made)… I also do the flip of this… I try to have it all together when I am around non-Christians… and am devastated when I mess up… it’s a subtle thing but huge… I am not supposed to be the message, only the messenger… and messengers are not perfect… I will listen to Tim’s message after this then ask God to search me… I have at times been a Pharisee and a hypocrite… the thing about deception is that I cannot know if I am deceived… because if I am, then I would be deceived into thinking I am OK! Pharisees are deceived. I will pray. Thank you for this blog post.

  22. deanmay on October 4, 2014 at 7:20 pm

    >>Few people are better at explaining the difference between moralistic self-righteous religion and authentic Christianity

    My favorite pet peeve of phariseeical sayings is “authentic Christianity.” It immediately sets the one using the phrase up as the ultimate judge on what is truly authentic and what isn’t.

  23. Benjamin Thomás DuFault on August 17, 2014 at 2:00 am

    As a non-Christian, eight speaks to me. I’m all for people believing whatever they want to believe, but the moment they start expecting people who do not agree with/believe in the same ideas as they do is the moment people get angry.

    If people want to win people over to their point of view/community/lifestyle/whatever, be it religious, political, or otherwise, they need to live their conviction and make it attractive towards people outside of that community in hopes that they join. Actions speak louder than words, after all. 😀

    • Matt on November 1, 2014 at 8:03 pm

      So what do you say when the tables are reversed.? I think that goes for the non-Christian as well. Right? Why should they be forced to embrace homosexuals who want to flaunt their so called “rights” and force laws to be changed or appealed? Or people who value animals over human life. I like how people are quick to judge a Christian and try to hold their own morals and values against them when they stand up about what they believe is wrong. Sounds like to me that a non-Christian has a lack of morals and uses it as a scapegoat so they may proclaim their independence of self-willed hypocrisy.

  24. Bryan Begley on August 9, 2014 at 10:52 am

    Sadly heard a more subtle version of all of these. When I was in vocational ministry, they tended to be attached to what I should or should not be doing for “the church people”.

  25. […] We seem to be great at blaming. Great at judging. As I wrote about here, many of us are more like the Pharisees than we are like Jesus. […]

  26. The Curse of the Selfie Generation on July 2, 2014 at 1:10 am

    […] We seem to be great at blaming. Great at judging. As I wrote about here, many of us are more like the Pharisees than we are like Jesus. […]

  27. JeffTN62 on June 26, 2014 at 10:33 pm

    Not sure how the pastor that wants to kick the sheep out of town for not being compliant can share such great incite, but great article Even a blind squirrel ..ha

  28. Ed on June 21, 2014 at 11:45 pm

    As a former evangelical/ minister, I have to say that in spite of y’all’s best intentions, you have a belief system, i believe, that encourages spiritual pride. To claim your beliefs as “absolute truth” as opposed to faith is arrogance. I read UnChristian as an evangelical and remember thinking how arrogant Kinneman came across suggesting that opposing views of Jesus were “hijacking” him. Its also ironic to me that in many cases Jesus seems to part from the harsh literalistic/ legalistic interpretation of his law/ scripture and yet evangelicals return to such interpretations of the apostles. I started reading liberal books on the Bible a few years back and have to say I was astounded by the scholasticism and greater transparency found in liberalism that seemed to be more lacking in evangelical circles. Just my two cents.

    • Grant on February 17, 2015 at 9:23 am

      I can’t speak for everyone, but for me, it works like this: the Bible is not just another view of God, one of many vantage points, another voice in the crowd. It is the absolute standard, the way and the truth. So if I accept nothing less than the truth and standard of the scriptures, I am not “arrogant” as you suggest; I am humbly submitting to God’s Word.
      We all have to put faith in something. For me, it’s what the Bible says.

    • Andrea Boggan on May 21, 2015 at 6:54 pm

      You are incorrect. I believe Jesus who is the truth. That is not spiritual pride. As for your two cents, “Give unto Caesar that which is Caesar’s and unto God that which is God’s.” In order to hear the truth that judgmental spirit you are toting needs to be put to death.

  29. Nancy Rummel Zuellig on June 18, 2014 at 12:01 am

    Another thing we say as Christians that, upon reflection, is rather pompous is “Prayer works!” The subject of that sentence is prayer. Who is doing the praying…. us! The subject and credit should go to GOD, certainly not us!! When we say “prayer works” the emphasis is on the act of praying, thus we are giving ourselves the credit for thinking and taking the time to pray instead of acknowledging that we have a sovereign compassionate all-mighty and powerful God who hears and answers our prayers according to His will and in His timing.

  30. Trevor Stultz on June 13, 2014 at 11:51 am

    Holy Rebuke Batman!!! I’m sitting in a pool of my own pride… Gonna lean on Jesus to clean this up! Thank you for sharing! Thank God for Grace!

    • Carey Nieuwhof on June 18, 2014 at 9:30 pm

      Love your honesty Trevor. I’m always preaching to myself.

  31. Rhodeline Villalobos on June 12, 2014 at 1:04 pm

    Pastor Carey, I am blessed by your ministry. I intend to share and use your ideas to strengthen and challenge my church leadership. Presently, I’m on a sabbatical leave.

  32. ronmabry on June 11, 2014 at 11:44 pm

    Carey, I am a retired pastor who volunteers through Kairos Prison Ministry, three years old kids at my church and lead a Bible study. I really don’t want to unsubscribe from following you on fb as you suggested in an e-mail. I have shared a link to one of your articles with my pastor. I shared this piece and three friends shared it from mine. So keep up the good work.

    • Carey Nieuwhof on June 12, 2014 at 7:22 am

      Ron…thanks for this. Love the fact that you’re in prison ministry.

      You’re exactly the kind of leader I look forward to connecting with for a long time. Thanks for being part of the tribe here on the blog!

    • Carey Nieuwhof on June 18, 2014 at 9:30 pm

      Thanks Ron! Glad you’re part of the tribe.

  33. James on June 11, 2014 at 4:25 pm

    I can relate to reason #7, it still amazes me that Christ still loves and cares for me. My challenge is to share that love with others.

    • Carey Nieuwhof on June 11, 2014 at 7:23 pm

      Love that thought. Thanks for sharing it James!

  34. Mark E. Hoelter on June 10, 2014 at 11:59 am

    My reading of the scholarship of the history of these things is different. These points:
    1. One should not take the Gospel accounts as factual history; they were written to make points (as in “make a point”), not to record history the way we expect the NYT or a contemporary historian to report.
    2. There is credible research to assert that Jesus was influenced by Hillel, a Pharisee (Jesus’s “golden rule” is a restatement of Hillel’s, for instance, made before Jesus), and perhaps was at least a fringe Pharisee himself. This would also explain the Pharisees you mention as among his followers.
    3. Regardless of that, there is credible scholarship that the diatribes against the Pharisees were added to the picture (to make a point) by the writers (plural) of the gospels – that this was born of the frustration of the early Jewish followers of Jesus who thought of him as Messiah when their fellow Jews did not come around to that conclusion.
    4. In fact, those accounts (not history as we know it) were written after the destruction of the Temple when the Pharisees in particular were trying creatively to redefine Judaism without the temple, leading to the earliest structure of Judaism (synagogues, family-centered, rabbinic led, sans sacrifice). It is more than reasonable to conclude that the claim that Jesus was Messiah (compare similar claims, including most recently that about Menachim Schneerson) was not on the face of it self-evident, and that the Pharisaic leaders were all too busy reconstituting Judaism.
    5. Credible scholarship, including Jewish but also Christian scholarship, shows a much broader picture of the Pharisees than that which is given in the gospel accounts of them.

    In short, although I write as a non-Christian, your points about behavior remain valid. I think it is unfair and inaccurate, however, to impute them to “the Pharisees.”

    All the best,
    Mark E. Hoelter

    • Carey Nieuwhof on June 18, 2014 at 9:42 pm

      Mark…thanks for your contribution and your insight.

      I appreciate how much you’ve read on this. There is a counter point of course, as you know. I appreciate the work that N.T. Wright and others have done challenging some of the assumptions you raise. A short article outlining his view is here: http://www.catholicity.com/commentary/wright/00166.html. Thanks for adding to the discussion. Just wanted to share a different view.

      • Benjamin Thomás DuFault on August 17, 2014 at 2:08 am

        One of my favorite things on the planet is being able to have a discussion with somebody who has a completely different worldview concerning the topic on hand, being honest and candid in their convictions and why they believe they are right, yet being able to go their separate ways as friends, yet still holding to their convictions and hopefully a bit of knowledge that wasn’t there before. I witnessed this in your dialogue between one another. Thanks for that. 😀

  35. Eric on June 10, 2014 at 11:15 am

    I remember doing a bible study where Jesus performed a miracle and the very next action was to recruit Matthew the tax collector (Matthew 9).

    The Pharisee’s poopoo’d it and – given that Matthew was not some theoretical enemy, but someone that had betrayed his own people and probably done something really, personally nasty to those that were poopoo-ing the choice – I certainly did not blame them. I could completely see why they would not want someone that had harmed and betrayed them personally; I claimed that I stood squarely with the Pharisees.

    If one has trouble forgiving and welcoming someone into your circle who has harmed you personally, then one is very much like those Pharisees. i.e., one is a fallen human who still needs to let the Holy Spirit work deeper into one’s dark heart so that we can echo the Spirit-empowered Jesus Who, on the cross, makes intercession for His enemies: “Father, forgive them; they don’t know what they’re doing.”

  36. Steve on June 10, 2014 at 10:36 am

    This was a simply outstanding article. The humility with which you wrote it made it all the more enjoyable. I would love to see you give number 8 some more attention. “Christian values” is so all-encompassing. And sadly, there are some things that fall under that broad umbrella which we should be fighting for… and hard! Abortion. Largely, we have reached a point in our faith where we are disgusted by abortion, but most of us sit by while it happens. Few are involved in changing society’s heart about the issue. Pornography. Pornography is such a destructive force in so many people’s lives. We should work to help others escape its clutches. I think I get what you’re driving at, but I’d love to see more!! Great job!

  37. Larry Sargent on June 10, 2014 at 4:05 am

    I have never considered myself more glorified in Christ I am a sinner but through Christ and reading my Bible I strive to be a better Christian I know I fall short daily so why would I or any other like me condem others …its a catch 22 on my next statement but these reasons are but a few why I don’t attend church I sit at home and study my bible alone I don’t need to get dressed up for the fashion show to go somewhere and be persecuted and treated like an outsider …the church I grew up in our minister retired our new minister he was young with a family young kids probably his first church .will after finding out I was gay he pulled me aside I was 17 he ask me to not return his church didn’t need my kind…nobody from the church people I considered friends ever called to ask me to return or why I was no longer coming …but after many years of soul searching I and through Christ I found myself ..and today I can forgive him and the rest not that my forgiveness is something glorious but helps my soul to know I can forgive those who tresspass upon me .

    • Carey Nieuwhof on June 10, 2014 at 11:57 am

      Larry…wow. That’s quite a journey. Thank you for sharing it and I’m so sorry you felt the rejection and hatred you’ve experienced. I recently preached through the issue of why Christians are so judgmental and it really made me check my attitude too. I hope and pray you find a community that you can connect with.

    • Heidi on June 11, 2014 at 4:23 pm

      Larry, I’m so sorry this happened to you.

  38. […] Source: Careynieuwhof […]

  39. Donny Rector on June 9, 2014 at 12:16 pm

    Great article. Is the PDF link correct? I did not see the study questions.

    • Carey Nieuwhof on June 9, 2014 at 12:43 pm

      Fixed. My bad. Sorry Donny! Thanks for letting me know.

  40. TerryReed on June 9, 2014 at 12:01 pm

    One of the best ways to combat Pharisaism in our hearts is to get out there with the “publicans and sinners” and be a part of lives. Seeing others as our equals through eyes of compassion rather than seeing them as somehow beneath us can go a long ways.
    Terry Reed
    Small Church Tools

    • Carey Nieuwhof on June 9, 2014 at 12:43 pm

      So true Terry. Thanks!

      • Lucy on August 4, 2014 at 10:37 pm

        No where in any of these comments did I see the statement of repentance. Yes, Jesus is compassionate and gracious to us but we also have a role to play and that is go and sin no more. Change our lives as it is revealed the wrongs we do. The story of Larry doesn’t end in if he is still gay. It just said that he found himself. God loves everyone through his Son, Jesus Christ but let’s not forget to repent with all our hearts, soul and minds and allow the Holy Spirit to work on our perfection until Christ returns or we go to Him.

        • Kris on August 11, 2014 at 2:32 am

          We should not condemn someone for struggling with a same sex attraction as if this makes them worse than, say, someone who struggles with gossip, or porn, or the consequences of a prior sinfill lifestyle, or any other sins that may entice a person. There is none righteous, certainly not me, or you either I would guess. But God is able to make us stand, you and me and that young man too, not because of anything righteous we have done or strive to do, but because he chooses to have mercy on us. We respond with obedience driven by love, and this is the fruit that shows our repentence is real. True, the young man didn’t say he repented, but he never said he’d surrendered to temptation either.

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