Pharisees Get Things Done
by Kyle Idelman
The key to understanding your inner Pharisee is that he is all about performance. That’s, of course, the part of us that others see: what we actually do. We tend to focus on appearances. It’s basic human nature, and the Pharisee is the master of that. If he can make life into a righteous tournament, that’s a game he can win, because he knows the rules the way some people know 1927 Yankees baseball statistics.
So he stresses religion based on following the rules and getting things done. Fasting and then blogging about it. Giving big bucks and making the signature on the check extra large. Giving a “testimony.” Pharisees love giving a testimony almost as much as they love the Internet. When your identity is wrapped around what others think about you, your faith has to be something that happens in plain sight, so nobody misses a single pious act.
In Matthew 23:5, Jesus is talking about spiritual leaders of this type. He says, “Everything they do is done for other people to see.” That’s the best definition I know of the Pharisee life. One of the central themes of Jesus’s sermon is that God looks on the heart, the true measure of who we are. Performance is too easy to fake.
Here’s the great danger of performance-based faith. Once we begin to receive those rounds of public applause for all our wonderful accomplishments, we start to believe the charade. We replace the heart with the hands.
Bible-time Pharisees were so good with rules and pious acts that they became legends in their own minds. Yet it wasn’t real. The Messiah stood before them, invisible to their eyes. The needs of the hungry and the sick, all around them, didn’t register. The things they cared about didn’t intersect with the things God cares about.
People loved and admired the Pharisees, so the Pharisees loved and admired themselves. They bought their own hype and missed the greatest miracle in human history.
Again, it’s easy to slam the religious leaders of the first century—until we make the appropriate translations and figure out how it all fits into our culture. We tend to hype ourselves through social media. Now, of course, I’m stepping on my own toes, which is an awkward physical position, by the way.
Social media is designed to show us at our best. It’s a form of self-publicity, and we tend to post only what we really want others to see. Therefore, as we scroll down the feed in Facebook, we see idealized versions of everyone we know. Then, because of human pride, we’re tempted to do exactly the same.
Copyright 2015 David C. Cook. The End of Me by Kyle Idleman. Used with permission. Permission required to reproduce. All rights reserved.
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