Beware the dangers of Christian Pharisaism

Michael Green in the following quote urges us not to fall into the same trap the Pharisees of Jesus’ day did. It makes sobering reading, and the rest of the section is worth buying this book for alone!

A graphic description of Pharisaism (23:1–12)

The teachers of the law and the Pharisees have, says Jesus, a God-given teaching authority: they sit in Moses’ seat (1), and are to be respected for their teaching role in the synagogue. The same applies to Christian ministers, in Matthew’s day or our own, but there is a great danger that the spirit that infected the Pharisees may creep into subsequent leadership. We are to beware.

Here are five characteristics for which the Pharisees were rebuked. They are ever-present dangers for Christian leaders. First, they may not practise what they preach (3).5 Secondly, they may be unwilling to undertake themselves what they prescribe for others (4). Thirdly, they may love to show off (5). Fourthly, they may revel in honorific titles and in being paid respect (6–10)7 Finally, they may misunderstand ministry (11–12). They may see it less as an opportunity for service than as a sphere of management or a chance to gain recognition. Are these weaknesses confined to Jewish leaders in the first century AD? Are they not always contemporary? If Christian leaders fail in these five ways, their failure is comprehensive indeed.

Michael Green, The Message of Matthew : The Kingdom of Heaven (Leicester, England; Downers Grove, Ill., U.S.A.: Inter-Varsity Press, 2000), 241-42.

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