The Pharisaical Religion

“Religion is a social penicillin, which is lethal against a wide array of behavioral patterns.” This statement is the result of  a study of black inner-city youth by Harvard University’s Richard Freeman: Boys who regularly attend church are 50% less likely to commi … More


This was our Lord’s last public message which was directed especially to the Pharisees. It is said that there were about 6,000 Pharisees in that day and most of them were middle class businessmen. The name Pharisee came from a word that means “to separate” and the Pharisees separated themselves from the Gentiles whom they considered to be unclean.

Jesus points out three basic flaws in the Pharisaical religion:

1.They had a false concept of  righteousness (v. 1-3). To the Pharisee righteousness was an outward conformity to the Law of God and they completely ignored the inward condition of the heart.

2.They had a false concept of ministry (v. 4). To them, ministry meant handing down laws to the people and adding to their burdens. Legalistic religion always seeks to make burdens heavier while Jesus came to lighten men’s burdens (Matt.11:28-30).

3.They had a false concept of greatness (vv. 5-12). To them, they were more concerned about the recognition of men than they were about the approval to God. They thought that position was a mark of greatness, so they sought the best seats in the synagogue. We should always be learning but some people today seek recognition by having a position or title through educational degrees. Doing is more important than knowing. True greatness is found in serving others, not in forcing others to serve us (John 3:30).


Which of the three items listed above are my weakest area? After reading this passage I desire more than anything to never be a part of this Pharisaical religion.

Matthew 23:1-12 (English Standard Version)

Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples, "The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses' seat, so practice and observe whatever they tell you--but not what they do. For they preach, but do not practice. They tie up heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on people's shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to move them with their finger. They do all their deeds to be seen by others. For they make their phylacteries broad and their fringes long, and they love the place of honor at feasts and the best seats in the synagogues and greetings in the marketplaces and being called rabbi by others. But you are not to be called rabbi, for you have one teacher, and you are all brothers. And call no man your father on earth, for you have one Father, who is in heaven. Neither be called instructors, for you have one instructor, the Christ. The greatest among you shall be your servant. Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted."

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