Thursday, June 17, 2010

On Pharisee Mentality

One temptation which always follows behind the Christian trying to be faithful is the mentality of the Pharisee.  Since I'm not afflicted by it, I'll write this to help those of you who are…

Ha, ha.  Actually, this is one of the first symptoms of it: To look at others faults and failings while being blind to your own.  Jesus warned us all about this type of thinking, in Matthew 7:

3 Why do you notice the splinter in your brother’s eye, but do not perceive the wooden beam in your own eye?

4 How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me remove that splinter from your eye,’ while the wooden beam is in your eye?

5 You hypocrite, remove the wooden beam from your eye first; then you will see clearly to remove the splinter from your brother’s eye.

It is a strong indictment which any one of us can be guilty of.  Jesus speaks quite strongly about this: It is hypocrisy to look down on others who sin while forgetting our own guilt before Him.  Now of course He doesn't mean we can't call any action evil or wrong.  That's an old deception which is aimed at us to overlook the fact that we are sinners ourselves when we look down on others for being in a state of sin.  If we realize our own need for Christ, we ought to recognize others are seeking Christ as well.  They might be further away from Christ to be sure.  However, they also might be closer because they recognize their own sin and need for salvation.  Christ has said in Matthew 21:

28 “What is your opinion? A man had two sons. He came to the first and said, ‘Son, go out and work in the vineyard today.’

29 He said in reply, ‘I will not,’ but afterwards he changed his mind and went.

30 The man came to the other son and gave the same order. He said in reply, ‘Yes, sir,’ but did not go.

31 Which of the two did his father’s will?” They answered, “The first.” Jesus said to them, “Amen, I say to you, tax collectors and prostitutes are entering the kingdom of God before you.

32 When John came to you in the way of righteousness, you did not believe him; but tax collectors and prostitutes did. Yet even when you saw that, you did not later change your minds and believe him.

It is a paradox which can drive a person crazy.  "Hey!  I'm following all the rules here, but you're saying these people who do all these evil things are closer to God than ME?"  Yet, the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom (Psalm 111:10).  The one who knows that God is holiness, is goodness and looks at their life compared to the holiness of God will see their own life lacks in comparison to what God asks of us.

It doesn't even mean we need to act like one of those cretins who show up at the funerals of AIDS victims with signs saying the deceased is going to Hell to be acting in a way which Christ calls wrong.  All we need to do is to act as if we are superior to others in how we live, as Christ teaches in Luke 18:

10 “Two people went up to the temple area to pray; one was a Pharisee and the other was a tax collector.

11 The Pharisee took up his position and spoke this prayer to himself, ‘O God, I thank you that I am not like the rest of humanity—greedy, dishonest, adulterous—or even like this tax collector.

12 I fast twice a week, and I pay tithes on my whole income.’

13 But the tax collector stood off at a distance and would not even raise his eyes to heaven but beat his breast and prayed, ‘O God, be merciful to me a sinner.’

14 I tell you, the latter went home justified, not the former; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and the one who humbles himself will be exalted.”

The Pharisee is proud of his actions, and forgets he is also a sinner who needs the mercy of Christ.

So I hope I set you all straight with that splinter.  Now, if you'll excuse me, I need to go lie down and take some aspirin or something to deal with the pain.  The optometrist has said it might be caused by this beam I have in my eye... but what would he know? 


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