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It’s Easy to be a Pharisee

It is not, however, easy to write this post. It’s been sitting on my mind for a while, and sitting on my heart for longer, and then sitting on my list-of-posts-to-write, and finally sitting as an open tab on my desktop, waiting for me to finally speak up and admit it.

You see, I’m a “good kid.” Have been since I was about 10. Following rules and feeling extreme guilt and responsibility is a big part of my nature; consequently, doing the right thing/being obedient is something I do usually easily and very often, for the simple reason that I can’t stand people’s reaction to my badness or I don’t want to suffer the internal shame. Of course, that doesn’t mean I am someone who doesn’t ever do bad things and disobey. It’s just that people assume I don’t.

With that kind of outside pat-on-the-back, and with my own conscientious list-checking, I got to feeling pretty self-righteous as a teenager and young adult. I mean, I’ve ticked all the boxes, right?

✔️Ultra modest clothing
✔️Super conservative music
✔️Limited to no exposure to TV, movies, & video games (especially super popular stuff)
✔️Very conservative vocabulary
✔️And so forth.

Now, I am not saying I think these things are bad or only for show. The older I get and the more I study the Bible, the more these things I believed have become convictions and things I wholeheartedly encourage. But the thing is, I got so focused on how good I was outside being that I started forgetting about the inside.

Not that I don’t do those things because I believe it’s what God wants and it’s best for me—but that I began judging those who didn’t do it. I started secretly looking down on them, complacently thinking of how they weren’t quite up to the level yet, compassionately trying to think of ways to nicely let them know their shortcomings, patting myself on the back for being such a model Christian.

I cringe remembering my thinking. It’s so horrid and wrong when stated in plain words.

I remember one day I was talking to someone whose convictions weren’t quite the same as mine, who did some things that I considered rather unChristian. She was talking about something that I was unknowingly judging her self-righteously in the bottom of my heart, when suddenly she rocked my perspective by a simple phrase she said—a simple phrase that demonstrated her relationship with God was so much deeper than mine.

I teared up at the sweetness and beauty of the moment, but in my heart, I was also writhing in shame.

I was too busy then to really consider what I learned, but as the year progressed—2021 ended and 2022 began—I started seeing a lot of stuff from my peers and from other Christians. I was rocked by decisions made that seemed to me so ungodly, yet as soon as I started pluming myself on my superiority, I was brought to my knees by realizing how the said person was ahead of me in some level of their spiritual journey.

And finally, over time, I slowly began to realize the truth.

We aren’t better than one another.

No Christian is ever perfect, therefore, there will always be someone stronger than you in one particular aspect of your Christian life. I would even go so far as to say that even someone like Paul can be 95% super godly and yet in 5% some other Christian can be “better” than him—because even Paul isn’t perfect.

Now that doesn’t mean we can’t learn from one another. It doesn’t mean we can reject the advice and counsel from a Godly Christian because “well we’re equal really.” It doesn’t mean you can’t accept the Bible Truth someone gives to you because they’re “not perfect.” The truth doesn’t depend on what human reminds you of it, it depends on what God said. It also doesn’t mean that there aren’t more mature and Godly Christians than others because they’ve been walking with Jesus longer. I am not saying any of these things.

What I am trying to say is, you’re never gonna be “better” than everyone else, because you are and always will be imperfect.

The point is, it’s not about you at all. It’s about Jesus.

Because all our own righteousness is as rags. We are covered with His righteousness. Ours isn’t worth the ink it’s written with. Our righteousness doesn’t amount to one. single. iota. It never was about us and how good or strong we were! It’s all about HIS righteousness that He placed on us on the first place!

The fact is, I can be perfectly irreproachably “Christian” in my lifestyle and still be completely far from God. That’s like what the Pharisees were—following the law 100% and yet completely missing out on knowing God.

What I realized is, there is no place for pride here. I have nothing to be proud of. I have no one to crow over. I have no business judging others. Because 1. I didn’t do anything to be good. 2. There’s all those passages about judging yourself before you judge others. 3. This isn’t a competition. It’s about each individual’s walk with God. If they’ve got a problem, the Lord will deal with it. (That doesn’t mean we can’t lovingly and prayerfully point out truth, but it means ultimately it’s up to God, not us. We’re not the Shepherd and the Head, He is.)

And you have no business being proud of your “achievement” because it’s not YOUR achievement, it’s God’s, plain and simple.

That’s the thing about humility. It’s realizing that you didn’t do nothin’. It’s all the graciousness of our Lord. And that’s the other thing about humility—it’s so key to faith and love and all the other aspects of the Christian life. It’s basically impossible to live the Christian life without humility.

But man, is it ever easy to get proud—just a little—slightly puffed up—a tinge of complacency and superiority—a dash of judgement. Because we think we’re “doing it better.”

It’s so easy to turn convictions, standards, morals, into a measuring stick for how good you are and how bad someone else is. But that’s not what it’s about. Convictions, morals, standards, all boil down to living life the way God wants us to—and the only way we can do that is by Him working in us and us wholeheartedly following His word—and there’s no room for pride there. Follow the words God spoke—speak to Him and listen to how He leads you—always check every idea and feeling against the principles He states—live in a way that SHOW you are His and not of this world.

There’s no room for self-righteousness in that.

And with how messed up we are, we don’t really have time to sit around judging each other. Again, speaking the truth God leads you to say is not the same thing—but idly standing there and just judging another Christian for his failures when you could be using that time to pray and ask God to help you realize your shortcomings and overcome them—that’s not okay.

It’s an easy sin to fall into, because it starts out so innocent and well-meaning—“oh, that’s not a good decision… I’m worried about her…”—and spirals so quickly into “self, you’re a great person and you’ve done a brilliant job, congrats.”

But it’s a sin that hurts so many and breaks up so much and is far too prevalent in Christian circles, in my humble opinion—and not just on the conservative side. It’s easy to start berating a Christian on the opposite end of our spectrum…

I don’t really know how to close this post. An apology to everyone I’ve silently criticized for years? A prayer that I will continue to be aware of and combat this sin? Grateful praise to the Lord for opening my eyes, even if it took a lot of hard circumstances and painful moments?

Maybe all three.

Christ, only Christ, no idle word e’er falling,
Christ, only Christ, no needless bustling sound;
Christ, only Christ, no self-important bearing,
Christ, only Christ, no trace of I be found.
Oh, to be saved from myself, dear Lord,
Oh, to be lost in Thee,
Oh, that it may be no more I,
But Christ that lives in me.

Mrs. Ada A. Whiddington, Not I, But Christ

Published by Katja L.

Hello! :) I'm Katja. I'm a Canadian bibliophile, book reviewer, writer, and child of God. I love too many things to name, but among them are chocolate, heirlooms, history, fancy handwriting, grammar & punctuation, laughter, tearjerking books, lists, organized bookshelves, pink roses, flowing skirts, hymns, and pretty much anything old-fashioned, beautiful, & classy.

6 thoughts on “It’s Easy to be a Pharisee

  1. I have found myself in the same position before. Pride is the hardest, subtlest sin to combat for me at least. Thank you for this reminder to guard against it!

    Liked by 2 people

  2. 🤗🤗🤗 Katja, I think we can all relate to this post at least a little! At times, I know I find myself feeling like I’m worth nothing and telling myself similar things, but at other times, I’ll notice myself feeling superior to other people. It’s a strange situation to be in, and I think it’s a sign that we need to, in C.S. Lewis’s words, “[N]ot think less of yourself [but] think of yourself less.” Give yourself some grace, though! God has forgiven you. You deserve some forgiveness from yourself, too. 💗

    Liked by 1 person

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