Good old classic Phariseism can be defined as a mechanical pious emphasis on that which doesn’t really matter to the exclusion of that which truly matters. The Pharisees were chiefly concerned with looking pious rather than being pious. Phariseism is a mirage, an illusion, an act put on to cover up a heart that is “far from God”. The Pharisee approaches his religious duty as a laundry list of things to tick of one by one. Give to the poor…check. Pray for an hour….check. The Pharisee engages in the act not for the sake of the act itself but for the pride in being able to exalt himself over and above his neighbors. To think himself superior for having picked himself up by his own moral bootstraps and lived up to the demands of the Mosaic law. So they thought. Such was the deception to which they had bought into and occupying a position of high religious authority attempted to secure their high status in society by making those who didn’t live up equally to such religious standards to feel inferior. But Jesus wasn’t fooled. Jesus was in constant collision with the Pharisees. Jesus had an infinitely higher standard of goodness. “You have heard it said do not commit adultery, but I tell you anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart”. The Pharisees emphasized the outward; they thought it significantly more important that a man “look” holy rather than to actually “be” holy. But in Matthew 15:11 Jesus amends this error in judgment by saying “it isn’t what goes inside a man’s mouth that defiles him but what comes out”. Another place in scripture says “out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks”. A heart far from God can fool the average person with good deeds as though it were a heart near to God. The Pharisee is a sort of counterfeit Christian and the way to distinguish his authenticity is to hold him up to the light of the Word; to look out for what fruits of love and words of kindness comes out of him when he is under pressure.


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