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Modern Day Pharisees and How to Deal With Them

Updated on August 1, 2020
revmjm profile image

Rev. Margaret Minnicks is an ordained Bible teacher. She writes many articles that are Bible lessons.

The Pharisees are mentioned throughout the Gospels, but they have not stayed in the pages of the Bible. That religious group is still among us in modern times. Through this article, you will learn to deal with them just as Jesus did.

Who Were the Pharisees in the Bible?

The Pharisees were a large Jewish religious group who were well-known legal experts. They lived by the letter of the law. Bible scholars are familiar with at least four Pharisees mentioned by name in the New Testament who were not against Jesus and Christians. They include Nicodemus who went to see Jesus by night (John 3:1-21), Joseph of Arimathea who gave his tomb for Jesus to use (Matthew 27:57-61), and Gamaliel who was Paul's mentor (Acts 22:3). Paul declared on many occasions that he was a Pharisee before his conversion to believe in Jesus Christ.

Pharisees were members of a party who believed in the resurrection of the dead and in following legal traditions.

Jesus offered woes on the Pharisees for the following reasons:

  1. The Pharisees taught about God but didn't show evidence of loving God.
  2. That large group preached God but converted people to a dead religion.
  3. They taught the law, but they did not practice some of the most important parts of the law such as justice, mercy, and faithfulness to God.
  4. They obeyed the law such as tithing spices but not the major tenets of the law.
  5. They presented the appearance of being clean, yet they were dirty inside. They were full of greed, self-indulgence, and self-righteousness.
  6. They were full of wickedness who pointed out the faults in others but did not recognize their own shortcomings.
  7. Jesus criticized the Pharisees for taking the place of honor at banquets, for wearing ostentatious clothing, and for encouraging people to call them rabbi.
  8. Jesus called them hypocrites because they taught one thing but lived another way without being examples of what they taught.
  9. Jesus criticized the Pharisees because of their outward, ritual observances which made them look acceptable on the outside, but they were immoral on the inside.
  10. They were legalistic who loved to stand and pray in the synagogues and in the. streets so that they could be seen.
  11. The Pharisees were hypocritical. They pretended to be one thing to get people to honor them while inwardly were not genuine.
  12. Even though the Pharisees were teachers of the law, they did not practice what they preached. It was more like "Do what I say and not what I do."
  13. The legalistic religious group advocated prayer, almsgiving, and fasting as spiritual practices. They were faithful to the law, but not to the Spirit.

Josephus, the Jewish historian who was himself a Pharisee, claimed the common people favored the Pharisees over the Sadducees, the more elite group of the upper class.

Pharisees vs Sadducees

The Pharisees and the Sadducees were religious leaders during the time Jesus walked the face of the earth. The Pharisees consisted of the larger group and the more legalistic group. They were against the Sadducees. However, the two groups banned together to be against Jesus. They also had different beliefs.

Both groups had longstanding social and religious conflicts. They disagreed on what should have been in the Torah. The Sadducees rejected the sections of the Torah with the prophets, the writings, angels, and the resurrection of the dead. (That's why they were sad you see). According to the Acts of the Apostles, the Pharisees did believe in those things. The Pharisees based their interpretation of Jewish laws on the teachings of Moses, while the Sadducees based their authority on the priests.

There is a long list of criticisms the Pharisees had against Jesus, and there is a long list of woes Jesus imposed on the Pharisees. The list is included in the Gospels of Matthew 23:1–39 and Luke 11:37–54. Three of the main things Jesus criticized the Pharisees about were hypocrisy and perjury.

The Pharisees treated Jesus with hostility. The religious authorities hated Jesus. based on three reasons:

  1. They were jealous of Jesus because of His popularity. Huge crowds followed Jesus everywhere He went. Jesus was able to relate to all types of people, and they liked Him. The Pharisees were judgmental and only looked at people’s sin with contempt for the common people.
  2. The second reason the Pharisees hated Jesus was that He exposed them for the hypocrites that they were. The Pharisees set the moral standard for the community which was entirely external. They sat in the highest places in the synagogue. They wanted to be the most honored and celebrated instead of Jesus.
  3. The third reason the Pharisees hated Jesus and tried to trip Him up every chance they could was that they were afraid of losing their positions of power and authority. They feared that Jesus would take their place among the people.

Modern-Day Pharisees

There are some Pharisees among us today. Perhaps you have come in contact with some of them. Since the Son of God isn't on earth for them to criticize, modern-day Pharisees criticize and go against God's people.

Today's Pharisees are judgmental Christians who are jealous of other Christians who are doing work in the Kingdom of God. Jealous Christians compare themselves to other Christians. They want to have the biggest churches with the most members. They want to get more preaching engagements for revivals and other special occasions.

Judgmental people are usually jealous of the people they judge. The harsher the judgment, the more jealous they seem to be. Pharisees are like vampires. They can’t see themselves in the mirror.

Personal Testimony

I have had dealings with modern-day Pharisees. They have shown up in my classes just to try to trip me up as the Pharisees did to Jesus. Fortunately, I never teach a class without being thoroughly prepared. Therefore, those people who tried to catch me off guard ended up being embarrassed themselves.

Modern-day Pharisees come with their own compass just as in Jesus' day. They have tried to use what they do as a model for others to do. However, as a child of God, Jesus is the example I follow.

So, how do I deal with modern-day Pharisees?

  1. I recognize them for who they are. They are not the standard by which I live.
  2. I know who I am and I use the gifts God has given me.
  3. I continue teaching and preaching what the Bible says instead of what they say.
  4. When they tell me, "If I were you, I would..." My response: "But you are not me."

Have you encountered modern-day Pharisees?

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    • Miebakagh57 profile image

      Miebakagh Fiberesima 

      4 weeks ago from Port Harcourt, Rivers State, NIGERIA.

      Magaret, wonder written up. Thanks.

    • revmjm profile imageAUTHOR

      Margaret Minnicks 

      4 weeks ago from Richmond, VA

      Cheryl, thanks for reading my article and for your kind remarks.

    • Cheryl E Preston profile image

      Cheryl E Preston 

      4 weeks ago from Roanoke

      This is absolutely wonderful. You have a strong gift of teaching.


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