If my daugher were a Pharisee…

Some reader is going to think, “Doesn’t this guy know that women couldn’t be Pharisees? Sheesh! He’s going to get quite the comment from me…” Well, yes, and good for you. Pharisaism was disdainful of the ability of women to learn, thus Paul’s groundbreaking libertarian, “Let them learn!” in 1 Timothy 2 (contra the idea that Paul was himself misogynistic). OK, we got that out of the way… but I still want to use this analogy, because she’s my daughter, the apple of my eye, and I want the best for her… and sometimes that means I act like I wish she were a Pharisee.

I’ve often heard parents remind each other, “We don’t want to raise them to be Pharisees, after all!” By this is usually meant that we don’t to be overly strict, that we shouldn’t be insisting on dress or behavior that is wildly different than the culture – that we don’t want them to be “fundys”. It’s a wrong-headed view of Pharisaism.

If my daughter were a Pharisee (just go with the analogy):

-) She’d try her hardest to be obedient in every situation

-) She’d love the rules we gave her, and she wouldn’t mind at all if they were not the same as those of her peers. One of her favored rules would be, “Honor your father and mother.”

-) She’d love to excel, especially in academia; her study habits and disciplines would be above reproof, and her scores at the top of her class

-) She wouldn’t hang out with the “wrong sort”; I wouldn’t have to worry about bad company corrupting good behavior

-) This would all be a matter of the heart for her, not simply superficial compliance while being observed. No “Eddie Haskill” observance here (you’ve probably got to be advancing well in years to get that reference).

-) She’d have a reputation for integrity and trustworthiness.

-) You’d all like her and praise her and compliment her mother and I on our excellent parenting skills.

Parents: anyone want to raise a Pharisee or two?

Of course, it would all start to go sour when she told us she couldn’t care for us in our old age because her gifts were dedicated to the temple.

But it would seriously be sour from the beginning, for there are a couple more bullet points to make:

-) She would try her hardest, straining every spiritual muscle she had, to be all that she could be…and she would be doing it all without Jesus.

-) She would believe firmly in herself. This is not a good thing. Her place of worship would be the temple of “I’m my own God” that was erected by Adam and Eve and has been enlarged and renovated in every generation since.

-) Some of the most fearful curses Jesus uttered would hang above her soul.

-) At the insistence of Jesus that he, that God alone must have her worship, she would join the cry of “Crucify him!”

I weep to write this.

I pray for her soul.

And I ask forgiveness from the God of grace for the many times that I have raised her as a Pharisee.

Taking time to press the gospel of Jesus Christ to the hearts of our children takes time. “Just do it” can be a shortcut – a shortcut that ends in devastation.

“Just grow up. You’re acting immature.”

“You’re smarter than this. Start living to your potential.”

“You need better habits. Better disciplines. I’m going to show you how you can develop them: (sometimes followed with “one way or another; you want to do this the easy way, or the hard way?”).

“If you lie, people won’t be able to trust you. You’ll be a liar. Do you want that?”

Look what I’ve done. I’ve told her that she can be strong enough, that she can be her own savior, and to live in fear of the perceptions of others, and to satisfy them. Legalism. Soul-destroying.

The gospel enters and says, “You can’t do this. You need a Champion, a Rescuer, a Divine Helper. Look, there’s Jesus! Look what He has done in our place! See what that means now as we live out our life in him. We’re weak, but we have a great Savior! What does his grace mean for this in our life? He will help us here. Let’s trust him, and ask his help to live this out…”

But our heart naturally resists the gospel, which tells us our problems are deep-seated because of sin, and our hope is wholly other than ourselves. And telling the gospel takes time. And so we often settle for, “Get through it best you can now, relying on your self. We’ll talk Jesus later.”

And just as I have (God forgive me!) done this with my daughter, preachers do it with their congregations.

And when we give people rules for living and advice and tips on how to do it better, and we don’t seat them deeply in the work of God in Jesus Christ, we are growing a congregation of Pharisees.

Today, when evangelicals speak of “Pharisees”, the usual present-day analogy is to stuffy, arrogant religious leaders. But I’m afraid the brush paints much wider. It covers multitudes of earnest, serving, community-building, honest, dedicated church members, longing to be ever more obedient, ruing their remaining sin, trying their hardest to be strong and good.

May God help us.

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2 Comments on “If my daugher were a Pharisee…”

  1. CovenantBride Says:

    this series is excellent…dont know what to say besides OUCH!!!…well…thx fa postin… be bless.. -g-

  2. JP Says:

    Good stuff!!!


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