View Full Version : Pharisaism: It's not about rules

March 7th, 2016, 10:10 PM
A long while ago, I proposed a number of threads that I could write, and Kmoney requested this one. So, here goes:

Often enough, people tend to conceptually equate the Pharisees with the multiplication of rules. This is, of course, not entirely wrong. The Pharisees, given their legalistic tendencies, were very much renowned for multiplying rules. "Not only must you rest on the Sabbath, but you must not even flip the light switch to the 'on' setting!"

Nonetheless, this is not, I think, what makes Pharisaism a bad thing. Jesus probably multiplied rules as much as, if not more than, the Pharisees. The Pharisees, at least, restricted themselves to external behaviors. Jesus prescribed laws even for our very thoughts. When you think about it, this should possibly terrify you.

It's not enough for Jesus that you not commit murder. If you bear hatred for another human being and are unwilling to forgive, you are guilty. It is not enough not commit adultery. If you lust after a woman ("If I could, I would!"), you potentially merit Hell.

No, even though the Pharisees multiplied laws and rules, this is not, I think, what makes Pharisaism bad. The great flaw of the Pharisees was a self-righteous pride. A verse that always comes to mind is John 7:19:

"Did Moses not give you the law, and yet none of you keepeth the law?"

And consider, in the very next chapter, how the Pharisees surround the adulteress ready cast stones at her (not that they had any legal authority to do so). What was Jesus writing in the sand? Here, I can only agree with Bishop Fulton J. Sheen: he was writing the sins of the Pharisees in the sand.

"Didn't Moses give you the law? But none of you, you very Pharisees who want to cast stones at this woman, keep the very law which you invoke as justification for wanting to kill her!"

The essence of Pharisaism is self-deluded pride. The Pharisee is so stricken with delusions of his own self-worth, his own goodness, that he could never bring himself to his knees and pray as the publican did:

"O God, be merciful to me a sinner" (Luke 18:13).

The very beginning to Christian faith is a keen awareness of one's own guilt, of one's own sinfulness. To become a Christian, one must be aware that one is in need of a Savior. Why? Because apart from a Savior, I am damned.

Yet how common is Pharisaism even in a so called Christian society, and even among Christians (especially, I think, among "respectable" protestant Christians)?

In this respect, the saying of Pope Francis should never fail to commend itself to us: "Who am I to judge?" If you are a Christian, you must never judge another human being. You must never wish or hope for anyone's damnation. You must always commend yourself and others, especially your worst enemies, to God's mercy.

To be a Christian is to wish and pray for good even for one's worst enemies, especially for those who have done you the greatest harm. Do you claim to be a Christian? Then consider your very worst enemy, and pray every day for God to bless him or her.

Because ultimately, at least with respect to yourself, you are worse, and nobody is in need of God's mercy more than you.

The opposite of Pharisaism is not anarchy: it's humility.

Bradley D
March 7th, 2016, 10:58 PM
The Seven Deadly Sins are listed as Pride. Envy. Wrath, Gluttony and Lust. Sloth and Greed. Pride heads the list because the others naturally follow. That was the Pharisees sin. Jesus said they placed a heavy burden on others that they themselves did not carry. Also it was Jesus who commanded us not to "judge" others.

"Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven" (Luke 6:37).

March 9th, 2016, 07:12 PM
A long while ago, I proposed a number of threads that I could write, and Kmoney requested this one. So, here goes:
Sure, blame me. ;)

Nice post Trad. I'm mostly in agreement. I'm reminded of this verse.

Mat 23:23 Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have omitted the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith: these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone.

The external things aren't necessarily bad, they just aren't primary.

And even this verse

Mat 5:20 For I say unto you, That except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven.

In my experience some people interpret that as implying Pharisees have no righteousness but that probably isn't the idea.

However, if you say that Pharisaism is about pride then it's still true that they are prideful and self-righteous because of their adherence to various external rules. And do you think what Pharisaism means for us is different than it was for them? What I mean is, then the various rules were fine and perhaps even required as a result of being under the Law as long as they weren't elevated above love and mercy and justice, whereas now the Law isn't operative. That could be why Pharisaism is now commonly described as adherence to rules instead of self-righteousness in general.

March 9th, 2016, 07:19 PM
Yet how common is Pharisaism even in a so called Christian society, and even among Christians (especially, I think, among "respectable" protestant Christians)?

I tend to agree with you here but.......why especially Protestants? :noid:

I'm sure you're aware that Protestants would level the same charge against you. :chuckle: