“You know you’re a pharisee if sin disgusts you more than it moves you to compassion.”
Jesus had harsh words for the Pharisees. And for good cause: they created stumbling blocks for those who sought God, they prided themselves in their good works and self-righteousness, and they despised the tax-collectors and ubiquitous “sinners.”
Jesus called them “white-washed tombs” and a “brood of vipers.” He didn’t exactly sugarcoat his condemnation of them.
Which is why I’ve tried to stay as far away from the label “pharisee” as long as I could, even though in my heart-of-hearts I knew that I probably was one.
Me? A Pharisee?
In my own life, I’ve been deeply hurt by someone I love dearly.
This person (who I looked up to more than any other person on the planet) had become so blinded by and entangled in sin that his presence was a threat to my well-being and those around him. And so he left, partially because I put up walls and partially because he would rather leave than give up his sin.
Our relationship died that day, and I went through shock, disbelief, anger, and bitterness, before resting in a place of loss.
It’s been over three years. Three long years.
And now I feel the Father tugging on my heart, telling me it’s time to act in reckless love.
But the pharisee in me doesn’t want to hear it.
Anyone But Him
Here’s the thing: I’m thrilled that God lavishes His love on the world and welcomes everyone into His family, but I struggle with the mentality that once you’re in, you’ve got to roll up your sleeves and get to work. You’ve got to earn your keep, to stay on the straight and narrow, to follow God’s commands. And if you don’t, you’re out of the club.
Right there is my heart as a pharisee.
I have more compassion for those druggies and hookers who have never heard of God’s amazing love than for those who have taught Sunday School and turned their backs on Him for a life of hedonism.
I’m the older brother hearing bad news–destitute, lonely, living with the pigs–nodding my head and saying “Serves him right. Teaches him to disgrace the family.”
I’m the older brother disgusted with the fanfare and celebration in honor of the one who turned his back on the family.
I’m the older brother refusing to go in to the feast because what’s-he-ever-done-to-deserve-a-party and why-didn’t-I-ever-get-to-party-with-my-friends?
I’m the older brother saying “After all I’ve done for you… this?! THIS is how you treat me?” And railing against the injustice of it all.
I’m the older brother… and you know who the older brother represented in that parable, don’t you?
I even remember using this very parable in conversation with my husband: