Jesus said “beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees.” Mathew 16:11
Some time ago I looked through Mathews gospel and tried to note the aspects of the behavior of the Pharisees that I need to avoid. Here are some of them.
Firstly, If you don’t want to be like the Pharisees, make sure that you are walking in fruitful repentance. Jesus says to the pharisees in Mat 3:7-8 “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bear fruit in keeping with repentance.”
Jesus is rebuking the Pharisees because although they come and submit to John’s baptism there is no evidence of a change of heart in the way that they live. We need to be careful not to look to outward signs to justify the legitimacy of our discipleship, it is what is in our hearts, and comes from our hearts, that testifies to a real change having taken place. From time to time I need to ask myself How I am doing in cultivating a heart characterized by love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control?
Secondly, if you don’t want to be like the Pharisees, make sure you avoid spiritual superiority. Mat 9:11-13 reads: “And when the Pharisees saw this, they said to his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?” But when he heard it, he said, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. Go and learn what this means, ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice.’ For I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.”
Now I have a responsibility to avoid spiritual superiority myself when I evaluate the Pharisees! How can I avoid the very pitfall I notice? I have a responsibility to evaluate myself before God, to invite God to know and test my heart, and I have to be very careful about judging others.
It does my soul good to remember that in the eyes of God I am unacceptable, unholy and unworthy except for grace, and in only in grace am I a saint.