Jesus attacked religious legalists vigorously. He saw them as one of his main enemies. Today I want to talk about what Jesus said when he was invited to dinner one night. He was talking about his host and his friends.
“But woe to you Pharisees! For you tithe…herbs, and pass by justice and the love of God. …Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like graves which are not seen, and the men who walk over them are not aware of them.”
Then one of the lawyers answered and said to Him, “Teacher, by saying these things You reproach us also.”
And He said, “Woe to you also, lawyers! For you load men with burdens hard to bear, and you yourselves do not touch the burdens with one of your fingers.… “Woe to you lawyers! For you have taken away the key of knowledge. You did not enter in yourselves, and those who were entering in you hindered.” [Luke 11:42-52 NKJV edited]
Very harsh words. Jesus, meek and mild? I don’t think so. The person who invited him to dinner was a Pharisee. The guests at the dinner were Pharisees and scribes. What kind of people were these?
Who’s a Pharisee today?
Dictionary.com defines it like this:
a member of a Jewish sect that flourished during the 1st century b.c. and 1st century a.d. and that differed from the Sadducees chiefly in its strict observance of religious ceremonies and practices, adherence to oral laws and traditions, and belief in an afterlife and the coming of a Messiah.
How does that apply to us today? I see it in many variants:
- There’s the KJV-only group. That’s just silliness and ostrich behavior at best.
- There are the Lutheran synods who won’t even pray with anyone else: This type of doctrinal rigidity is at the heart of Pharsee-ism.
- There are Baptist churches who will not associate with anyone else, even other Baptists: My sister was a member of a cult like that in the 1970s. They loved the Bible and made it the center of their life. In fact, they worshipped the Bible. But they… Oh, I won’t even go there.
- Rigid denominationalism is often pharisaical.
- Any church with a dress code: this would usually qualify.
- Dunk only, sprinkle only, wine only, grape juice only:This list goes on and on. If they were important, Jesus would have spelled them out in scripture.
Usually, these are what we would call super Christians. They are aggressively religious: at every service, dressed right, singing right, praying right, memorizing scripture, hands raised (or not depending on the denomination), and on and on. They are very good at praise and rarely even comprehend true worship. They really look good and the immature seek to follow their example because it is public and obvious.
Who’s a scribe today?
Dictionary.com defines it like this:
one of the group of Hebrew scholars and teachers of Jewish law and tradition, active from the 5th century b.c. to the 1st century a.d., who transcribed, edited, and interpreted the Bible.
We ran into a clear example of that yesterday when I felt compelled to share about the group of American Translators who are taking the words Father and Son out of translations directed at the Muslims. But we see this all the time with preachers ranting and raving about a tiny bit of scripture taken out of context. There was that little man in Chronicles (I think) with the name which started with a J who has been a raving fashion recently.
A scribe is basically a lawyer, and we are really in trouble when lawyers start dictating policy. We have a Congress made up primarily of lawyers—and you can see where that has gotten us.
Why was Jesus so upset at them?
First of all they were hypocrites. They were deeply religious, but ignored the important attributes of belief—focusing instead on nitpicking details that were even extra-biblical. Maybe there are verses in the Torah about tithing mint, but I don’t recall them. That’s not important though: justice and mercy are.
Jesus was constantly attacked the flagrantly religious. Those with long beards and flowing robes who loved places of prominence in church. Those whose prayers were oratorical and impressive with no real knowledge. How many times have you heard someone pray talking about Him instead of petitioning You (talking with Him)? Pontificating has no place in personal conversations and prayer is a personal conversation between you and the Lord.
Jesus also was really upset by the nitpickers who made religion so difficult. Our faith is not complicated. It is not hard to understand. Jesus does not put the burdens of precision upon us. He wants honesty and clean, clear, quiet communication about real issues, true feelings, and genuine love.
Scribes & Pharisees—REPENT!
Before it is too late, get on your face and get real with God. He’s been waiting a long time. He loves you. We are to be humble, genuine, demonstrating the fruit of the spirit as listed in Galatians 5. There is no room for outrageous public displays of religiosity. Please repent—before it’s too late.