Two Characteristics of Pharisees

What is a Pharisee? As a prototype they represent the self-righteous. Those who justify themselves.

As such there are two primary characteristics Pharisees possess:

One, a love of money and two, a love of the praise of their fellow man. Why these two? Because in the Garden when Eve and then Adam sinned the ‘world was turned upside down’ which means the values that God had instilled in them were reversed in order.

The values from God were first to love Him, obey Him and seek His glory and second, which is a fruit of the first command, is to love your neighbor as yourself. However sin reverses this order and leads us to love money, obey its demands and as a result seek the glory or approval from man and second to hate our brother. How is that the second is that we hate man when in the first command we seek his glory? In a paradoxical way first, when man doesn’t approve of us our response is to hate him and second to love money breeds self righteousness whose fruit is not love but superiority. In other words by loving money man seeks to be superior to his fellow man which brings about contempt for fellow man versus the love that comes from God.

You see these characteristics constantly referred to by Jesus as he encounters Pharisees in the Scriptures.

Let’s look at some of these references:

Luke 18:9-12, “And He also told this parable to some people who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and viewed others with contempt:  “Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood and was praying this to himself: ‘God, I thank You that I am not like other people: swindlers, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I pay tithes of all that I get.’ “Here the Pharisee demonstrates language of superiority or self-justification and hatred or contempt of his brother.

Jesus says it like this in Luke 11:39-40, But the Lord said to him, “Now you Pharisees clean the outside of the cup and of the platter; but inside of you, you are full of robbery and wickedness. You foolish ones, did not He who made the outside make the inside also?” Thus even though the Pharisee was in the Temple praying and speaking of the works that he had done based on the Law, yet that did not indicate he was right on the inside.

Luke 18-25, “A ruler questioned Him (Jesus), saying, “Good Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” And Jesus said to him, “Why do you call Me good? No one is good except God alone. You know the commandments, ‘Do not commit adultery, Do not murder, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Honor your father and mother.’ And he said, “All these things I have kept from my youth.” When Jesus heard this, He said to him, “One thing you still lack; sell all that you possess and distribute it to the poor, and you shall have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.” But when he had heard these things, he became very sad, for he was extremely rich. And Jesus looked at him and said, “How hard it is for those who are wealthy to enter the kingdom of God! For it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.” Obviously this man loved money and sought to justify himself as a result.

Luke 16:14, “Now the Pharisees, who were lovers of money, were listening to all these things and were scoffing at Him (Jesus).  And He said to them, “You are those who justify yourselves in the sight of men, but God knows your hearts; for that which is highly esteemed among men is detestable in the sight of God.'”

When Jesus teaches a lesson He doesn’t change the lesson as He teaches it through Scripture. This means if He chastised the Pharisees about their self-righteousness a couple of times He was teaching an eternal doctrine.

Jesus also reveals the intention of their heart in verses like Matthew 6:1-6, “Beware of practicing your righteousness before men to be noticed by them; otherwise you have no reward with your Father who is in heaven.  So when you give to the poor, do not sound a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, so that they may be honored by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full. But when you give to the poor, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving will be in secret; and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you. When you pray, you are not to be like the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and on the street corners so that they may be seen by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full. But you, when you pray, go into your inner room, close your door and pray to your Father who is in secret, and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you.”

What is the consistent charge from Jesus? That these men did what did to be seen by other men.  In other words they did it to receive glory from man.

The following three verses are exhortations about the love of money and therefore against being a Pharisee:

I Timothy 3:3, Paul writes, “not addicted to wine or pugnacious, but gentle, peaceable, free from the love of money”.

Hebrews 13:5 states, “Make sure that your character is free from the love of money, being content with what you have; for He Himself has said, “I will never desert you, nor will I ever forsake you,”

Finally, Paul writes in I Timothy 6:10, “For the love of money is a root of all the evil, and some by longing for it have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.”

You can see the continuity of the Scriptures definition of a Pharisee: first, a love of money and second a love of the praise of man. As a Christian evangelist you have to evaluate your motives whether you preach Christ to receive praise from man or truly the praise that comes from God alone. Money likewise; are your ministry schedule and evangelistic efforts designed for your profit or for the benefit of the hearers of the Word and the glory of our great God & Savior.



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