If you are at all familiar with the Bible, you’ve undoubtedly heard of the Pharisees. They were some of the Jewish religious leaders in the time of Jesus, who made sure people were following the Jewish laws and customs. Many of whom also wanted to look good in front of others for how “holy” they were.
And it is easy for many of us (Christians) today to look at them, roll their eyes, and be glad we aren’t like that. Sure we aren’t perfect, but at least we aren’t holding people to unrealistic standards that God never asked them to live up to.
Except that we are like them, we just don’t know it.
In his book Accidental Pharisees, Larry Osborne writes about this very thing. Now there certainly are certain standards that God calls us to. Scripture speaks against things like lying, stealing, ignoring the poor, sexuality, etc., but there is also a lot of freedom that believers also have. Osborne writes,
“But we do have freedom in many other areas. And it’s this freedom that can drive the fledgling legalist within all of us crazy. Once the Holy Spirit places a clear call on our life to do something (or not do it), it’s hard for most of us to fathom why everyone else didn’t get the same memo.
The same thing happens with Scriptures and issues we’ve studied carefully. If we’ve meticulously researched an issue, thought deeply about it, prayed about it, and believe God has revealed something to us, most of us will assume that everyone else who is led of the Spirit and intellectually honest with the text will come to the same conclusion. We can’t imagine God being pleased with two opposing applications of one Scripture.”
A personal example
Here’s an example. For me (and remember, no judging!), I can easily become susceptible to judge how other Christians use their money. Now, Jesus talks more about our resources and money than anything else (even heaven and hell). And it’s because how we spend our money has a direct connection to what we truly believe. So it matters.
So if someone doesn’t have a budget and isn’t very generous, then how can they claim to be good stewards of what God has given them? At least that is what goes through my mind. And it isn’t long before I think “if they really loved Jesus as much as I did, then they would have a budget, know where their money is going, and be more generous.”
Should Christians manage their money well and be generous? Absolutely. Does Jesus tell us exactly how we should manage and spend our money if we follow him? Absolutely not.
And that is when I accidentally become a Pharisee. I add a rule to “what it really means to follow Jesus” where no such rule exists.
So for those of you who are followers of Christ, what is it for you? Where do you add rules as a barometer of whether or not someone loves Jesus as much as you do?
Where do you secretly judge others, not because they aren’t living up to Christ’s standards, but because they aren’t living up to yours?
Let us follow Jesus the best way we know how, and in the places where we have freedom, let us not place our convictions on others where they should not be.
I have to remember, a budget doesn’t save people, Jesus does.
So whatever you it is for you, let us not forget it’s Jesus, not our rules, that people need most.