Your Inner Pharisee is Showing
“Everything they do is done for people to see.” — Matthew 23:5
The Pharisees would have loved social media.
The opportunity to carefully curate an idealized version of their life would fit perfectly with Jesus’ evaluation in Matthew 23:5, “Everything they do is done for people to see.”
If you had asked someone in this sect of religious Jews during the period of Jesus’ earthly ministry about their life’s purpose, they likely would have responded, “To obey God’s law.”
Fervently committed to projecting an image of outwardly righteous conduct, their public display of “law-keeping” garnered them respect among their contemporaries, solidifying their status as profoundly devout religious men.
But if the Pharisees were as righteous as they appeared, why did Jesus refer to them as “whitewashed tombs,” beautiful on the outside but internally filled with death?
What could Jesus see that others couldn’t?
The New Testament recounts numerous confrontations between Jesus and the Pharisees. While Jesus extended words of invitation and forgiveness to those marginalized and labeled as ‘sinners,’ he directed severe criticism towards the religious elite who appeared pious and holy in their strict adherence to religious standards.
This stark contrast raises a critical question. Why did Jesus respond so differently to the Pharisees?
Upon closer examination, we find that Pharisees’ fixation on their moral practices was not driven by their love for God, but rather by love for self. For a Pharisee, public display of righteous acts (such as praying, giving, teaching, etc.) was a means to gain human admiration, as public acclaim formed the very essence of their identity.
In other words, a Pharisee’s religious reputation was his functional righteousness.
Their pursuit of righteousness, based on the approval and praise of others, was akin to a treasure chest filled with worthless currency. In their relentless pursuit of self-righteousness, they exhibited…