Are You More Like Christ or the Pharisee? Thoughts on Pride, Arrogance, and Christian Isolationism


Image by Nicholas Tan

With phylacteries flailing and a palpable pride in religious righteousness, the Pharisees believed and behaved as the brokers of God. These elite had it all together. They knew the right words, secret hand-shakes, and religious culture of the inner-circle of God. What’s more, these people believed their squeaky clean lives made them closer to God while the vulgar masses on the street, the broken, crippled, adulteress, tax-collecting crooks, had no hope of being in God’s presence—let alone be loved and touched by Him.

And while some 2000 years ago, this sect of God-followers wained, the same Pharisaic spirit thrives.

I am a Pharisee

Not just I, but thousands of others fill the pews and chairs of churches across the West. It is often overlooked and scarcely recognized, but Jesus spent little time with the churched—the religious club who fancied that they held a “monopoly” on God. In contrast, Christ touched the broken and diseased. He loved, walked with, and scandalously allowed the devotion and company of prostitutes and adulteresses.

Yet when one examines the church today, the local gatherings in cities across the country, many behave more life Pharisees and less like Christ—though they bare the name “Christian.”

Sobering though it may be, we must take a deep look in the mirror and ask, “Does my everyday life and accompaniment reflect more the life and love of Christ or the Pharisee?”

Truth be told, I feel more comfortable among the elite, uppity, Christian-bubble people than with homosexuals, prostitutes, drunks, and the diseased.

And when I think of “serving” or sharing the gospel in action with this segment of society, a distanced “I’ve-got-it-figured-out-but-I’ll-help-you” sort of pattern comes to mind. While arguably “better” than ignoring these people, a once-a-month feeding of the homeless in which we offer some cheap spaghetti slop and leave just in time to watch Law and Order does not align with the image of love, service, and sacrifice that Christ exhibited. It’s far more akin to the methods of the Pharisee.

Christ loved and lived on the same level with the broken and impoverished rather than from a place of arrogance—a drive-by offering and service. He touched. He fed. He spent time with and invested in the social outcast even when his social standing and cultural appropriateness was called into question.

He allowed the prostitutes to touch and wash his feet and sit in his presence in front of the religious.

If Christ had come today instead of 2000 years ago and came to a Church meeting in which porn-stars and prostitutes sat at his feet, touched him, and offered their “dirty” money as gifts, many scoffing words would be hissed and spoken under the breath against this “prophet.”

Christ is the example. Unconditional love and radical service was his method. And though he was God, he became the low and humble.

May our lives look less like the Pharisee and more like Christ.


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  • Lex

    I love posts like this, but every time my heart screams, “Yes!” while my head screams, “How?”

    HOW do we actually, really do this? I have a mortgage that has to get paid, and a husband who really wants to be fed, and a college loan that really shows up in my mailbox every month. All of that means I have a job that I really have to maintain. And I support my local church by volunteering, and partnering with the vision. There are only so many hours in a day, right?

    I’m not being antagonistic. I genuinely struggle with this. I write this. I preach this, but at the same time I look at it and think, “Yes! How?”

  • Anonymous

    Lex, I think you hit it on the head.

    Everyone thinks that married women are the ones who should reach out to the broken, but they simply don’t have the time.

    I used to be an “Major League” Christian. I lived up to the gold standard of evangelicalism. I did everything right. I had great parents, did Scripture memory as a kid, youth group, high school choir, got my BA from the #1 Christian college, and married a guy who asked my dad for my hand in marriage.

    At the time, I thought I was doing great. But like other A-List Christians I really didn’t get it. I didn’t understand the Gospel. I certainly didn’t understand Luke 7:37-49. I thought that evangelism was to get people to have right morality (like
    me!) and then come to Christ.

    When I went through a divorce, my life turned upside down. Regardless of the reason for the divorce, I disappeared off the radar of A-List Christians at my church. No marriage? Then you don’t exist. We have no idea what to do with you. Please go somewhere until you get married again.

    That forced me into the world of B-List people. Hey, if your Christian friends sort of ignore you, don’t call, don’t invite you to the Bible study or small group even though you asked — then you go where you are welcome — you go into secular groups, and yes, some of them are as good as fellowship groups at church.

    That’s when I discovered the real Gospel. The Gospel is not for the A-List people. As Jesus said, “It’s not the healthy who need a physician, it’s the sick.”

    And B-List people really want Jesus. America isn’t becoming atheist. The harvest is rich in America. Outcasts want Jesus. The poor want Jesus. Divorced people want Jesus. Gays want Jesus. Single mothers who never married want Jesus.

    I never thought I had the gift of evangelism. But I was wrong. I just had the wrong message all these years: “Clean up your life and become an A-List person and God will love you.”

    Now I realize that the message is Romans 5:8. God loves you no matter how messy your life is. Don’t worry about cleaning up, just come to his open arms. When Jesus thinks it’s time for you to make changes, his Holy Spirit will guide and strengthen you.

    So, no, most married women with a husband and children cannot help others. They don’t have time. But as a single mother barely making it, I had compassion on other B-Listers. I made time to listen to people and pray with them. I loved being with them because I knew God would work in their lives. He loves the outcasts. He can barely make headway with the Major Leaguers — that’s why I was such a pathetic evangelist back then even though I had all the right moves.

    Now I have my own mission field. I didn’t have to go overseas to serve. All I had to do was be divorced and marginalized and my life changed. Going from A-List to B-List helped.

    Now I spend as much time in secular groups as in Christian ones. And yes, they listen to the Gospel and they are hungry for it. I love to reach the B-List folks who Jesus loves — and they love him more than even they know.

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