The way Jesus covers their behavior, we might all be Pharisees at varying degrees. But in the “seven woes” section of Matthew 23, we can at least check how we stand against this list — which could serve as either helpful or seriously convicting. So, go ahead and get your inner Jeff Foxworthy voice going in your head, and let’s see what it takes:
1) If you like to say, “If I’m going down, you’re going down with me!,” you might be a Pharisee. (v. 13-14)
2) If you’re a jerk, and you go out of your way to train up other people to be just like you, you might be a Pharisee. (v. 15)
3) If you value the things of man over the things of God in the context of church, you might be a Pharisee. (v. 16-22)
4) If you pick on people about petty things but avoid addressing issues that might condemn yourself, you might be a Pharisee. (v. 23-24)
5) If you scrub up your exterior image while letting your soul deteriorate, you might be a Pharisee. (v. 25-26)
6) If you project a holy life while having an agenda of death, you might be a Pharisee. (v. 27-28)
7) If you say, “No, not me,” when it comes to risky situations or opportunities, you might be a Pharisee. (v. 29-32)
Jesus really didn’t like these guys. His disdain, however, had little to do with their religious ways, but more so their two-faced nature. Here’s what my NIV Bible notes say:
Jesus does not criticize the Pharisees for their evangelistic zeal. He objects to its results.
Jesus does not criticize the observance of the minutiae of the law (he says, “without neglecting” them), but he does criticize the hypocrisy often involved.
We’ve already covered hypocrisy — it seems to be Jesus’ favorite word in this chapter — but perhaps this list of seven woes helps you remember what Jesus did NOT die for:
– False religion
– Personal gain
– Personal comfort
– Positional authority
Instead, He died to follow through with the Father’s will, to redeem mankind and make salvation available for all. Don’t try to complicate it.
(For some fun, imagine Jesus singing this to the Pharisees. It ALMOST works.)