Seven Ways to Avoid Being a Religious Nut
Most people would not dream of modelling their behaviour on the Pharisees who lived in Jesus’ time upon the earth. It is so easy to copy some of their traits unwittingly. Here are seven things to do that stop us from becoming spiritual nut cases.
Stop being a judge
Jesus said the Pharisees sat in Moses seat (Matthew 23:2)1 2 saying, “The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses’ seat.. Moses sat down when he was acting as a judge (Exodus 18:13)2 13 On the next day, Moses sat to judge the people, and the people stood around Moses from the morning to the evening.. We would do better to judge our own lives rather than judge other people. We cannot change other people’s behaviour, nor are we answerable for what others do. We will be much better people if we attend to our own lives. We must judge ourselves (1 Corinthians 11:31)3 31 For if we discerned ourselves, we wouldn’t be judged..
Do what you say
We might know what is right, but do we put this into practice? The Pharisees were hypocrites (Matthew 23:3)4 3 All things therefore whatever they tell you to observe, observe and do, but don’t do their works; for they say, and don’t do.. A hypocrite acted a part and is a term taken from ancient theatres. It is easy to talk well but not spend the time and effort to do what we say. God rebuked Israel for drawing near to Him with their words but their hearts being far away from Him (Isaiah 29:13)5 13 The Lord said, “Because this people draws near with their mouth and honors me with their lips, but they have removed their heart far from me, and their fear of me is a commandment of men which has been taught;. Let our yes be yes and our no be no in practice. It will keep us in a much better place (Matthew 5:37)6 7 But let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes’ and your ‘No’ be ‘No.’ Whatever is more than these is of the evil one..
Be a remover of burdens; don’t create them
A consequence of not practising what we preach is unreality (Matthew 23:4)7 4 For they bind heavy burdens that are grievous to be borne, and lay them on men’s shoulders; but they themselves will not lift a finger to help them.. When we struggle to practice the things we say, we realise what works and what doesn’t. If we try to tell others what to do when we don’t do it ourselves, we ask others to live in a theoretical and often impossible way. Jesus taught what He did (Acts 1:1)8 1 The first book I wrote, Theophilus, concerned all that Jesus began both to do and to teach,. It is hardly surprising that His yoke was easy, and His burden was light (Matthew 11:28-30)9 28 “Come to me, all you who labor and are heavily burdened, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart; and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”.
Stop being a performer
Everything the Pharisees did was to look good to others (Matthew 23:5)10 5 But they do all their works to be seen by men.. What motivates us? It is a terrible way to live if our actions are dictated by what others think around us. It is so much better to be genuinely motivated by the integrity of choosing what is right and doing it because it is a good thing to do. We need to stop rating ourselves by the questionable opinions of others (Proverbs 29:25)11 25 The fear of man proves to be a snare, but whoever puts his trust in Yahweh is kept safe..
Shun the celebrity culture
The Pharisees loved to be the centre of attention, and they worked so very hard to be the celebrity at the party (Matthew 23:6)12 6 and love the place of honor at feasts, the best seats in the synagogues,. If we aim always to be the most popular, and the one considered the best, we will be doomed to failure. We are not super-heroes. We do far better to relax and enjoy our lives in the spheres we naturally occupy. People who work behind the scenes may achieve more than the personalities who are all froth and no substance. We must judge ourselves soberly and not think about ourselves more highly than we ought. Right thinking gives us the best foundation for productive lives (Romans 12:3)13 3 For I say through the grace that was given me, to everyone who is among you, not to think of yourself more highly than you ought to think; but to think reasonably, as God has apportioned to each person a measure of faith..
The Pharisees loved all their titles, such as rabbi, leader or father (Matthew 23:7-10)14 7 the salutations in the marketplaces, and to be called ‘Rabbi, Rabbi by men. 8 But you are not to be called ‘Rabbi’, for one is your teacher, the Christ, and all of you are brothers. 9 Call no man on the earth your father, for one is your Father, he who is in heaven. 10 Neither be called masters, for one is your master, the Christ.. Labelling is about placing people and ourselves on a hierarchy of worth. People with better titles are supposed to be the best. If we go around rating people by their worth, we will become obnoxious. Let us love without favour and spiritual snobbery (James 2:1-4)15 1 My brothers, don’t hold the faith of our glorious Lord Jesus Christ with partiality. 2 For if a man with a gold ring, in fine clothing, comes into your synagogue, and a poor man in filthy clothing also comes in, 3 and you pay special attention to him who wears the fine clothing and say, “Sit here in a good place;” and you tell the poor man, “Stand there,” or “Sit by my footstool” 4 haven’t you shown partiality among yourselves, and become judges with evil thoughts?.
Work at being humble
The Pharisees considered themselves too important to behave like ordinary people (Matthew 23:11, 12)16 11 But he who is greatest among you will be your servant. 12 Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.. They served themselves and not others. God wants us to serve others, and this may mean taking a very humble position. The apostles had a lowly opinion of themselves even though they worked very hard to help others. Paul considered himself to be the least of the Apostles (1 Corinthians 15:9)17 9 For I am the least of the apostles, who is not worthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the assembly of God.. Moses was the meekest man on all the earth (Numbers 12:3)18 3 Now the man Moses was very humble, more than all the men who were on the surface of the earth.. Humility is not the same as false modesty. Those who genuinely serve are good to know.
The Talmud (Sotah, 22b) describes seven types of Pharisees. These were:
- Shoulder Pharisees so named because they displayed accounts of their so-called good deeds on their shoulders for others to see and admire.
- Wait a Little Pharisees who always had a reason for not doing good until later.
- Bruised and Bleeding Pharisees went round with their eyes closed to not do wrong by looking lustfully at women.
- Humpback Tumbling Pharisees tried to show off their humility by slouching along with bent backs, which resulted in frequent falls.
- Ever Seeking Pharisees kept meticulous records of their good deeds to determine how much reward God owed them.
- Fearing Pharisees were motivated by the fear of Hell and Judgement
- God Fearing Pharisees whose lives were genuinely motivated by love for God and a desire to please Him. Nicodemus was an example (John 3:1, 19:39)
God deliver us from being Pharisees. If we would emulate any, let us be like those who love God and seek to please Him.