There are a lot of places in the Bible where Jesus openly roasted the Pharisees for their behavior.
But why? The Pharisees were seemingly the most righteous and religiously upstanding folk for the Word and commandments of God. They gave their 10% tithe, observed every spiritual ritual, and strived to honor God in all that they did. The amount of dedication, hard work, and diligence it took to become a Pharisee was enormous; the amount of work was not for someone who was simply concerned with having high social status.
At face value the Pharisees’ of Jesus time were man of immense diligence devoted to spiritual fruitfulness.
So why was Jesus often so harsh with the Pharisees? Why does Jesus roast the men that could be potentially become some of his greatest advocates for his messages about salvation, the kingdom, and eternity?
If we look deeper at the Pharisees that interacted with Jesus we certainly find that many of them were devoted to every spiritual practice. A Pharisee in that day devoted himself to the teachings of God, memorizing Scripture, and ensuring all that he did was holy in the eyes of the Lord. But if we pay attention to what flaws Christ points out, we may find that the things that made the Pharisees appealing, Kingdom-minded prospects actually make them to be clear opponents of Christ.
““Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices—mint, dill and cumin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law—justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former.”
I think if we are honest with what we look at in the mirror every morning we might have some of the same symptoms of a Pharisee that Jesus so openly opposed. Today we are obsessed about the things that we do and have accomplished. What is on your resume? What is on your spiritual resume?
Often times I think we overly enamor another person’s spiritual fruit and we go after the byproduct we see rather than the means of how that person got there.
Name any spiritual big cheese out there. How many times have we strived to think like Timothy Keller, love like Francis Chan, or prophecy like Bill Johnson?
The Pharisees’ problem was that they were obsessed with doing the things of God rather than being in relationship with God and I think, at times, we should be faulted for doing the same.
Theologically I may be making a stretch, but in the above passage, isn’t Jesus referring to justice, mercy, and faithfulness as characteristics found only in a relationship with God? Can we really value those things without a relationship with God from which those things derive?
Millenials we are very much obsessed with what we see; we see what we like and try to emulate the byproduct. We start become self proclaimed experts on ministry, community, and discipleship simply because we’ve seen what fruit in those areas can look like.
What if we just become people obsessed with growing a relationship with God? We are all twenty somethings and have experienced some level of intentional, beautiful relationship with someone. What if we spent time in the Word to actually talk with God and learn things from him? What if we prayed to commune with the living God and worship him with the words we have?
We are to abide in the Vine and remain in him. Fruit is not our concern, but actually a natural byproduct of intimate relationship with God himself. The communities will come. The abundance of joy will come. Wonderful, deep relationships will come.