Below is the daily Bible reading I am doing for West Side Church of Christ. Feel free to follow along.
Today’s reading (Matthew 23) is not the first time Jesus has confronted the Pharisees. In fact he has already done so on many occasions for many different reasons. Today’s attack was his worst one yet. Jesus really cut to the heart of their issue and almost damned them to an eternity in Hell.
Like we have said before, the Pharisees were part of the Jewish ruling class. They were well trained in the scriptures. In fact they would have had the majority if not all of our Old Testament memorized. Not only did they follow the laws of Moses to a “T”, they also imposed their own laws upon the people so they had no chance at violating the Law of Moses. While everything on the outside looked great, inside they were a mess. Inside their hearts were not motivated by piety, but by greed and community recognition.
For those of us who have been around the church for a while, I wander how much we have moved into the area of being a modern Pharisee. Maybe our hearts are not motivated by greed and community recognition, but maybe we have taken the commands of scripture to the extreme to guard against sin. Now I am not saying that this is completely a bad thing. But Paul tells us that we have been set free. What does that mean? Well, I think it means that we do not have to work so hard to guard our lives of sin that we find ourselves not enjoying the salvation we are offered.
I grew up in a congregation that from the pulpit had a very strong stance on alcohol. Our ministers own family had been devastated from the use of alcohol. His feelings on the stuff eventually permeated throughout the congregation. Growing up I had a very negative view of alcohol. Before I went to college I had the impression that the consumption of alcohol was a sin. Over the past several years my views of alcohol have changed. I personally have no desire to even taste the stuff (never have had), but I recognize that drinking alcohol is not banned in the Bible. Drunkenness is banned, but alcohol is not.
Having said all that, when I see someone drinking alcohol, even someone I know is not a Christian, a negative impression comes into my mind. I am still weak in that area of my life. Thus on my view of alcohol I have become a modern Pharisee. I have taken something that is not sinful to consume and made it sinful. Why? Because I know that it is easy for it to pass into the sinful category.
Here is what I am getting at. I think we have to be careful to not place parameters on being a follow of Christ that are not there. When we do that we become a Pharisee. Now our motives might not be destructive, but we have to be careful not to take the joy out of being a Christian.
I hope I did not confuse anyone today, or even offend anyone. Thank you for reading along.