I Would Have Made a Great Pharisee
Glynnis Whitwer

"Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence." Matthew 23:25 (NIV)

Give me a list of rules to follow and I'm happy. I can follow rules like nobody's business. My left-brain dominated thinking likes order and routine, blanketed with no surprises. There's some comfort, I guess, in being able to assess my performance according to a set standard. If I'm obeying the rules, I must be doing ok. Right?

There's one big problem with that line of thinking. It tends to redirect my focus from what really matters: the condition of my heart. Jesus identified this problem with a group of religious people back in the day called the Pharisees, and it didn't make Him happy. In fact, He reserved His harshest comments for those people whose insides didn't look anything like their outsides.

I wonder if the Pharisees were well-intentioned. Did they really want to serve God and thought they were by following the rules? Or was it more of a power play to gain respect? Either way, Jesus split open their pretty packaging and revealed the ugliness of their hearts. Just like He does with me.

It seems God continually brings me to the end of my endurance, both emotionally and physically, to reveal the truth about my heart. What's revealed in those moments of pressure is usually something that needs addressing, like selfishness, insecurity, jealousy or bitterness.
Getting split apart isn't pleasant. In fact, it's often painful and embarrassing. Yet, it's required if I want to become a true follower of Christ.

The reality is I would have made a great Pharisee. But the truth is I'd rather be a great disciple. I'd rather be sitting at the feet of Jesus than teaching in the temple. I'd rather share a simple meal of bread with Jesus than a fancy feast elsewhere. And if that requires the ugliness in my heart gets spilled out, then so be it.

Cause at the end of the day, I'd much rather hang out with Jesus who loves me in spite of all that junk. The other option is pretending it isn't there, but that's not fooling anyone. So, I'll welcome God's holy intrusion in my life, submit my need to rank my performance, and spend more time attending to my heart. That's what really matters.

Dear Lord, You are holy and righteous, and yet You love me just as I am. Thank You for calling me to a higher level of obedience, one that requires I submit my heart and my life. I long to follow You more than anything. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

Related Resources:
6 Habits of Highly Effective Christians by Brian T. Anderson & Glynnis Whitwer

When Your Child is Hurting and other resources by Glynnis Whitwer

Visit Glynnis’ blog – Welcome Home…Where Your Heart Longs to be

A Perfect Mess: Why You Don't Have to Worry About Being Good Enough for God by Lisa Harper

Application Steps:
Identify an area of your life where following the "rules" has taken priority over having a right heart. Submit that area of your life to God in prayer and ask Him to reveal anything in your heart that needs addressing.

How does a strict adherence to rule-following hinder us at times from obeying all of God's commands?

Read the key verse at the top of the devotion. Why is hypocrisy such a dangerous condition in our lives?

Power Verses:
Psalm 51:10, "Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me." (NIV)

Matthew 23:23, "Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices—mint, dill and cumin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law—justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former." (NIV)

© 2009 by Glynnis Whitwer. All rights reserved.

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Blogger ImaFriendofGod said...

Mrs. Glynnis,

Thank you for your wonderful words of encouragment.

I've been so hard on myself to be more, do more, to fill shoes that possibly were to big for me to fill. Maybe it isn't my place to teach or lead. Maybe my place is to simply be obedient. It could be that I am meant to sit at His feet and pray for those of you blessed with the ability to truly touch the hearts of others.

I have no doubt there is plenty of ugliness in my heart and try to deal with it on a daily basis. That's a part of our human life. Having a true intimate relationship with God makes that struggle easier to battle. It certainly doesn't make it go away but it helps my heart know what I need to do.

I'm scrubbing away on the inside of my cup... think I'm making progress. Sometimes I wish I could scrub on others that have no clue they're stained... then I realize I've just judged & get out my prayer rag & scrub myself a little more!

Sounds crazy but I don't think getting "broken" is always a bad thing. In some situations, it can be a soul changing experience.

We should never forget why we do what we do! It's all for the glory of God.

Anonymous Anonymous said...

The Truth is being written here. We must continue to give our hearts over to God, that he may clean it and fill it with the Holy Spirit. Constantly renewing our minds according to scripture. If we spend all day preparing our outward appearances how can our hearts get any cleaning?

Blogger Unknown said...

I am a much better pharisee! I like those big fancy meals and the pomp and circumstance with high profile Christians. i am having to rethink my attitude. thanks susan

Ms.Glynnis, you have a very good way of helping me to understand things. I've asked more than once and more than twice, "Does it, (doing the right thing), count if I do the'deed' even though I didn't want to?"

I've always heard that it's the obedience that counts but I still argued that I'm doing whatever it is only because I know that it's the right thing to do, not because I sincerely want to do it.

I've also read the passage you referred to many times but never thought to apply it this way. Thanks!


Blogger Angela Dell said...

Dear God,
Forgive me for spending so much energy adhering to some unwritten set of rules that guide my steps instead of investing that energy into having a relationship with you. I know that I can talk the talk when it is called on me to do so, but I haven't been faithful in what you desire of me. I have pushed you to the side and chosen sleep or television in your place and in your time. I have redecorated my heart the way I see fit instead of giving you full creative control. Forgive me for my selfishness. I don't want to hav eto get to the point where I am in pain or experiencing loss for me to wake up and realize that you are what should be most important to me. I heard you at PWOC and I made a promise that I haven't kept. Forgive me and cleanse my heart. Let there be a new day that I can call mine as a marker of a changed heart. I know that this weekend will be full of activity and all, but I will not put it off until after then I commit 7:00 to you and I will meet you. Thank you for your forgiving heart and grace with me. Help me to extend that to my children everyday. Direct me to be the mom you want me to be, I sometimes just feel like I don't know what I am doing.

Anonymous Anonymous said...

The difference between a Chritian and a Pharisee is that the Pharisee`s were trying to impress themselves and other`s by the way the "kept" not only God's law but their own very extencsive list of rules. Because they were so focused on outword appearances nither lists ever touched their hearts but gave them a great sence of pride in accomplishment.

Christian's on the other hand are to have God's law written on their hearts Jer 31:33, God's law of Love inscribed by his Holy Spirit, by whose power we can bear the fruits of the spirit, and against which there is no law. for If we have these fruits flurishing in our heart we will keep His 10 without even knowing it because the Spirit is making us a new creation in Christ Jesus.

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