You Might Be A Pharisee If…
Your Traditions Are More Important Than People. “And He said to the man who had the withered hand, “Step forward.” Then He said to them, “Is it lawful on the Sabbath to do good or to do evil, to save life or to kill?” But they kept silent. And when He had looked around at them with anger, being grieved by the hardness of their hearts, He said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” And he stretched it out, and his hand was restored as whole as the other.” Mark 3:3-5 (NKJV)
At this point, the Pharisees really don’t care about this guy at all. His hand, and the suffering that comes with it don’t matter to them. To be crippled in any way in this day was rough. If he’d had a job before he lost use of his hand, he’d almost certainly lost it since. This meant no way to provide for himself or his family. Keep in mind, there was virtually no such thing as a savings account at this time. Especially for regular folks. For the most part they lived day by day. They got paid a daily wage and that bought their daily necessities. The loss of a job brought almost instant destitution. His only way to get money was to beg. Can you imagine the difficulty of being put in that position? Caring for the poor was a part of what God expected of His people (Deuteronomy 15:7-8). But rather than doing what God had said, here are the religious leaders not caring at all.
When I first studied this, I thought their hearts were just hard toward those in need. Then it clicked that it was more than that. It was worse than that. They cared more about their traditions than they did about this man and his suffering. Luke tells a similar story to this but his has something that clarifies what’s going on here.
“But the ruler of the synagogue answered with indignation, because Jesus had healed on the Sabbath; and he said to the crowd, “There are six days on which men ought to work; therefore come and be healed on them, and not on the Sabbath day.” Luke 13:14 (NKJV)
The ruler of the synagogue was indignant that Jesus had healed on the Sabbath. That was the issue here. The issue wasn’t that Jesus was going to heal someone. It’s that by healing them He would violate their age old traditions and they would rather this guy suffer than break their traditions. They cared more about their traditions than they did the suffering of others.
Pharisees care more about their traditions than they do about people. The Pharisees in our text cared more about their Sabbath traditions than they did about the suffering of the man with the withered hand. The main way we see this sort of Phariseeism in our day is when we care more about our traditions than we do about the fact that people are going to die and go to hell. We wouldn’t say it that way of course, but that’s how we live when we are Pharisees.
A church that is filled with Pharisees lives in the “good old days” and says things like, “We’ve never done it that way before.” When we are Pharisees we talk about the way we’ve always done things. When we are Pharisees we talk about what our parents, or grandparents, did. When we are Pharisees we talk more about the past than we do the present or the future. But what if the way we’ve always done things actually hinders us from reaching people? What if what our parents, or grandparents, did to reach us hinders us from reaching our kids or grandkids? What if the world has changed, and is changing, so dramatically that what we did in the past doesn’t work in the present and won’t work in the future? What would we be willing to do if that were the case?
If your traditions are more important than people, you might be a Pharisee. If you aren’t willing to let go of the past to better reach people now, you might be a Pharisee.
You Plot To Destroy Those Who Disagree With You. “Then the Pharisees went out and immediately plotted with the Herodians against Him, how they might destroy Him.” Mark 3:6 (NKJV)
The Pharisees left that meeting determined to do whatever it took to destroy Jesus. From this point on their interactions with Him are all hostile. All that they are doing from this point on is looking for reasons to discredit, and destroy Him. Of course, we know the end of the story and sometime later they appear to be successful as they convince Pilate to have Him crucified. It was all based on the fact that Jesus didn’t fit their into their mold. He wouldn’t do what they wanted Him to do. So they plotted to have Him crucified. It is sorta ironic to me that while they were upset at Jesus for healing on the Sabbath, they didn’t have any problems plotting to destroy him on the Sabbath.
Pharisees in our day generally don’t take it that far but that doesn’t mean they still don’t try to destroy those that disagree with them. Rather than seeking to destroy them through, you know murder, they seek to destroy people through gossip, innuendo, gossip, lies and stuff like that. Pharisees don’t seem to have the ability to agree to disagree or to disagree in an agreeable way. Instead, they let that disagreement eat at them until they actively plot ways to harm those who disagree with them. This doesn’t have to be physical. It can be emotional, spiritual, relational, vocational, just pretty much any way to harm someone.
If your disagreements with someone leave you looking for ways to destroy or harm them, you might be a Pharisee.
Tomorrow I’ll write about Jesus’ attitude toward Pharisees.