I Would Have Made a Great Pharisee
"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 okay. 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.
Because 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.
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?
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)
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