Apologetics: ə-pŏl'ə-jĕt'ĭks from the Greek απоλоγία Def: The branch of theology that is concerned with defending or proving the truth of Christian doctrines.

The Irony of the Pharisee. . .

Written By Esthermay Bentley-Goossen on 14 October 2008

“A pharisee is hard on others and easy on himself,but a spiritual man is easy on others and hard on himself.” ~ A.W.Tozer

The irony of this statement in today’s culture (although I agree entirely with its premise) is that people are now calling those who stand for True Biblical Christianity “Pharisees” while it is the spiritually blinded who are in fact the ones who reflect most closely what a Pharisee really is.

The spiritual man makes judgments about all things, but he himself is not subject to any man's judgment. . .
~ I Corinthians 2:15

Most people identify a Pharisee as one who is over-legalistic in regards to what the Bible says. However this is a stunted and deficient view of what a Pharisees really is.

We live in an age of deception. And the line between a believer’s biblical call to discern and the act of judging another person is a very smudged line indeed. I deal with it myself – and so does every Christian with the spiritual gift of discernment.

I do agree with Tozer's idea – and I am taken straight to Matthew 7:1-5:

“Jesus said to his disciples: "Stop judging, that you may not be judged. For as you judge, so will you be judged, and the measure with which you measure will be measured out to you. Why do you notice the splinter in your brother's eye, but do not perceive the wooden beam in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, 'Let me remove that splinter from your eye,' while the wooden beam is in your eye? You hypocrite, remove the wooden beam from your eye first; then you will see clearly to remove the splinter from your brother's eye."

We all have a propensity to judge others. It's just part of being flesh. And Jesus knew this when spoke of the ease in which we see the splinter protruding from our neighbor’s eye. Who couldn’t notice that!?

Our neighbor’s faults, however, should not distract us from a sincere examination of our own lives. We have our own splinters to deal with and at the end of the day, judging obtains little or nothing productive. A spiritual person knows it is far more fruitful to spend one's time rooting out their own defects.

When I was in college, I developed a rather sophomoric and fruitless practice of name-calling with a few of my girlfriends.

If one of us was acting selfish or carnal we were a “Canaanite.”

If one of us was complaining about something, we were an “Israelite.”

If one of us was acting superior or judgmental, we were a “Pharisee.”

(And so on. . . )

While we had perfected the art of sarcasm, we were the subject of the Matthew 7 passage.

In a sense, we were “Pharisees.”

But. . . What exactly is a Pharisee?

In Jesus’ day, a Pharisee was inclined to be very rigid in regards to the written Jewish Law (The Old Testament). But their greater error was that they held their “Oral Law” (the oral traditions/customs/way of life, etc.) just as important -- or more important -- than the written law.

Here’s where the Pharisees got into trouble: The oral tradition of the First Century – in most cases -- contradicted the Old Testament. The Pharisees danced around the contradiction by embracing the idea that you could not understand the Old Testament by simply reading it, but instead the Law had to be interpreted within the context of the oral traditions/customs/way of life, etc.

Good Grief! Isn’t this EXACTLY what non-believers and many “Christians” do today? Ever heard this statement? . . .

The Bible was written thousands of years ago. It isn’t relevant today. We can only glean simple moral lessons from it.

How ‘bout this one:

Biblical Submission is out-of-date because I Peter 3 was written when women were considered chattel. Today, women are “equal” with men.


God’s Word is GOD’s WORD. Period.

You have to understand that in Jesus day, the Jews had strayed far from God. Very much the same way that America has strayed from its Christian Heritage.

The Jews in the New Testament had allowed pagan ideas and practices to creep into their culture. It happened over a period of some four hundred years – going back to the time of Ezra and the rebuilding of Jerusalem and the Temple.

While the Pharisees of Jesus’ day thought of themselves as true followers of God because they followed the written law (The Old Testament), JESUS had something quite different to say to them:

So the Pharisees and teachers of the law asked Jesus, "Why don't your disciples live according to the tradition of the elders instead of eating their food with 'unclean' hands?" He replied, "Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you hypocrites; as it is written: 'These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. They worship me in vain; their teachings are but rules taught by men. You have let go of the commands of God and are holding on to the traditions of men.'"

And he said to them: "You have a fine way of setting aside the commands of God in order to observe your own traditions!
~ Mark 7:5-9

Here's where I get into trouble:

This is EXACTLY what is happening in churches today!

Over a period of several decades, our society has allowed pagan ideas and practices to creep into our culture. And way too many churches have allowed the culture to make its way into the life of the church. . . . and when someone speaks God’s Word and points it out, we call that person a “Pharisee.”

In our culture – and yes, our churches too - we validate the corruption of our culture while at the same time claiming to believe what God’s Word says. (Do I dare say this?. . . ) The average churchgoer is a Pharisee calling the spiritual man who believes in the inerrancy of Scripture a "Pharisee."

We definitely live in an age of deception. A.W. Tozer's quote is most certainly well received by this blogger. I agree totally with his thought. Please don't misread me here. I do not want to judge others. Believe me -- or ask my husband -- I've got plenty of beams with which to deal!

But the light of the Gospel has definitely been eclipsed today by way of both pagan culture and false teachings. They come at us by way of television, radio, Internet, books, seminars and any other media that is available. No believer could possible discuss and work out each of these specific disagreements/faults/heresies (whatever you wish to label them) with their authors as Matthew 18:15-20 requires.

Thus. . . speaking out against them is seen as "judging."

If that makes one a "Pharisee?. . . "

Well. . . I, for one -- have been called worse.

Esthermay Bentley-Goossen
© 2008 The Heart of a Pastor's Wife
Amy is hosing
In Other Word's this week. Visit her at In Pursuit of Proverbs 31.


Denise said...

Very well said.

Ava Semerau said...

A very thoughtful and thought-provoking quote, and you took it a whole different direction from the way I took it! Isn't that the fun of these I Other Words Tuesdays?

Here's where I get in trouble - I describe pharisees the way they're described in Mark 7:9 - as people who have let go of the commands of God and are holding on to the traditions of men, and there's nothing good about that! It goes far beyond merely being judgmental or hypocritical in my opinion. Being called a pharisee is the equivalent to being called...well, for me personally, it's like being called a mutawa!

Anyway, thanks for making me think!

AVA <><

john burreson said...

You're absolutely correct that standing for Biblical Truth especially in the 21st Century Church is viewed as being judgmental.

Standing for Truth will always come with cost. Only what's done for Christ will last.

sara said...

Esthermay, that was very well written and very thought provoking. I was just having this conversation with my college age daughter the other day. I am going to send her to your blog...thank you.

Btw, I have used your post on hospitality several times now with women in my church. Thank you for your research and writing and for always pointing your readers back to the ultimate source, God's Word.

MiPa said...

Interesting perspective on the quote. Thank you for challenging us to think.

Lynnette Kraft said...

I'm realizing that you have a gift of looking at things from a different angle. :)

What really illustrated the nature of man in your post was when you told about you and your friends "name calling". It was done in fun, and I've done similiar things before (as an adult), but isn't that evidence that we think of ourselves more highly than we ought to think! Yikes. What a spilling over of the heart, huh?

Oh to be like Thee! What a struggle here on earth.

Thanks for sharing!

Karen said...

Great! That was well put and I agree. We can't stop others from viewing us as they "think" they see us but we are responsible for the kind of picture our actions are painting for others. Its one thing to be called a Pharisee its another thing to actually live as one for real. Thanks for sharing.

Rachel said...

Great post! (it seems like I start all my comments like that) :)

I heard a wonderful sermon once on the nature of judging. The preacher talked about how Christian get called judgmental when we say something is immoral (i.e. homosexuality, premarital sex, etc. - anything our society is condoning these days!). My favorite line from the sermon was, "Hey, we're not being judgmental when all we're doing is telling them what the Judge has already said."

Laurie Ann said...

Amen! I love the take you took on this quote. There are times when we do need to call it like we see it. "Bologna!" sums it up well. Continue writing for Him, Esthermay. He is glorified by it, my friend!

Patricia said...

You have a wonderful way of interpreting today's quote. I agree wholeheartedly with the fact that popular culture in creeping into our churches. It is so prevalent that some of us "pharisees" are calling those distorting the Gospel by a new name: emergents. Our hearts must be full of the Truth of the Word so that our eyes can be on the alert for the untruths flashed at us constantly.

Thanks for a great post!!

Barbara said...

Your college name calling game makes me laugh. Sounds just like me. I am so guilty of being a Pharisee myself sometimes and God help me if I've ever done anything to harm the church. I know it happens everywhere. People switch churches constantly because they think they're better than others
If the troublemakers in churches today could just see themselves! Thank you for the thought- provoking things you write.

Michelle Bentham said...

Great Post... Esthermay... I must confess I have been remiss in keeping my word about getting that blog award you passed on to me paid forward.

No excuses, life happened and I forgot.

Love everything you said here. I've never been more persecuted than when I walk through the doors of a "Church Sponsored" support group and profess the truth of God's Word and work in my life.

Trying not to be judgmental and a "cram it down your throat" Christian - I have given up much to appease those few. Perhaps, I should re-evaluate my movtives.

No Kidding - after writing my post this morning I went to a "Peace-Making Strategies" class at church where the theme was conflict resolution. HMMMM! Maybe God is working something out. Thanks so much for sharing your heart.

Love You!


This was an awesome post! Very well written. Thanks so much for sharing from your heart.


Betsy J. said...

Very well said but you preach to the choir. I'd love to know if (no proper names, I know) gossip circle women at Crane read your blog. Why don't they comment? I've been called worse than Pharisee too, Esthermay. These women have much to answer for. Keep teaching Truth. Maybe you'll reach them for Jesus yet.

Jenn said...

I've been looking forward to this. Thank you for sharing God's truth.

I love your choice of songs on your playlist. Vivaldi is one of my favs...

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