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Beware of the Leaven of the Pharisees

If one does a study of who the Pharisees were and what they believed and practiced they would be shocked to find they are still among us today. Not just in the Judaism as in the Ultra Orthodox, but in Christianity. And you probably have seen them and been bewitched by their teachings and practices and do not even know it.

The Pharisees tried to correct Jesus with their own man-made laws that were not from Moses. They made up their own laws; that were not from God to correct Jesus. Jesus’ whole ministry was in conflict with their teachings, and more often than not he was addressing the religion that they perpetrated upon the people. They were very religious and most were in awe of how blessed they were. They were were well known and wanted everyone to learn and follow their ways and interpretations of the Scripture. If there is anything we can learn from Jesus on this it is to not submit to man made laws, traditions of men or false Bible interpretations by famous religious men who are known by all. The main point is that we are all are to be subject to the same authority and standard, the Word of God. No man can make you submit to there own words unless you want to. However they have clever ways to convince you by guilt, fear and just plain spiritual manipulation just like the Pharisees.

Is what we see taking place today? Many want the people in the church to submit to their word, a word that is unfounded in the Bible. Paul admonishes in 1 Corinthians 4:6: “not to think beyond what is written” (exceed or go past). Why? So pride will not have an opportunity to operate and puff someone up. When someone leads people beyond the Scriptures instead of correctly explaining what is contained in them, he is being spiritually destructive to himself and others who listen to him. This is no small matter to be shirked at. The Pharisees brought almost the whole nation of Israel into their bondage by obedience to their non-biblical teachings.

 Intentional false teaching has its source in pride. This is why Jesus warned of the leaven of the Pharisees in both their teachings and practices. Their own arrogance and pride had them reject Jesus’ words. When the Pharisees disputed Jesus over His claims, He pointed them to the Word. Jesus often told them that they did not understand the word. Mark 7:5 Then the Pharisees and scribes asked Him, “Why do Your disciples not walk according to the tradition of the elders.” The reason is because they were following their own law not Moses law the way it was intended; it was corrupted by the Pharisees interpretation. Jesus responded in v.13 “making the word of God of no effect through your tradition which you have handed down. And many such things you do.” 

The Pharisees did all their good deeds, their spiritual obligations in front of people as much as possible. It was the Pharisees who said their prayers publicly (on the street), they made them long and loud. They gave their money publicly (oftentimes having a horn blown when they gave their tithes). They did their good works publicly; they wanted to be seen because they looked for recognition from men. False religion always wants to boast in its own works. True religion, a person who is spiritual will not boast in what he does and use the podium as a platform for his adventures. We should recognize that the perfect medium for this motivation today is TV. Jesus made it clear: “Take heed that you do not do your charitable deeds before men, to be seen by them. Otherwise you have no reward from your Father in heaven” (Matthew 6:1). Its obvious the preachers of earthly prosperity are not considering this. When you hear people being honored because of how much they gave in front of the world and the church it is exactly what Jesus told us not to do. Announcing that so and so is giving $200 or $1000 is a sales tactic to prompt others to give the same. When you hear them tell you how successful their ministry is, the building they are doing, the amount of staff they have and the money that is coming in they are doing exactly what Jesus said NOT to do.  

The Gentiles prove they do not know God by their worldly pursuits whose goal in life is acquiring things. They have worldly-mindedness that has an excessive attention to business for riches, and an abundance of goods. After giving a parable on stewardship Jesus ends it with “you cannot serve God and Mammon” Luke 16:14 Jesus points out “Now the Pharisees, who were lovers of money, also heard all these things, and they derided Him.” Then Jesus scolded them saying “what is highly esteemed among men is an abomination in the sight of God.” When you see men always talk about their earthly prosperity, boast in the abundance of goods they own, how successful they are, claiming it is God blessing them, they are disguising worldliness under spiritual language. 

Their Pharisees religion became VERY profitable, and they became rich off of it. They controlled the Temple grounds and “made merchandise” of the people, selling doves (a poor persons offering) for the sacrifice at excessive prices. The common people brought the lambs as their first fruits but the Pharisees would tell people their offering or sacrifice was not good enough; they would take theirs and then sell them another sacrificial animal at a high price. The same spirit of greed is in the Church today; you can never give enough. When you sow your seed and  reap that is not your harvest but it is to be sown again. These sheep-shearers are so masterful in their speech they can fleece the flock before they pronounce baaa. Jesus drove the moneychangers off God’s property, but today we invite them in and we support them. Why? Because some actually hope and believe they can prosper by giving them their hard earned money no matter how large the amount is. One should not be made guilty for whatever amount they freely give; the only requirement is to give cheerfully and willingly (Romans 12:6,8; 2 Corinthians 9:7). Better to consider giving to a ministry that teaches the truth and does not manipulate people in their giving.

Matthew 6:23-27: “But if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If therefore the light that is in you is darkness, how great is that darkness! “No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon. “Therefore I say to you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink; nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing?”

They appeal to the very things Jesus said no to worry about. Jesus is clear how we are to live. What are your eyes focused on? The choice becomes trusting in God for our provision or a method, a promise from man for increase. Money is necessary for us to live however it can easily become our focus for living. What are the TV preacher’s eyes on? Who are they loyal to? What are they preaching mostly on? If its sowing your seed, if its financial blessings then it is not a promotion of the gospel. We see this day in and day out on the TV. It’s not the asking of money that can be abusive or evil, but how and why it is asked. They find clever and innovative ways to gather funds to further extend their empire in the world. The naïve believe every word because they are presented as a success and are respected.

Then Jesus spoke to the multitudes and to His disciples, saying: “The scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses' seat.” Therefore whatever they tell you to observe, that observe and do, but do not do according to their works; for they say, and do not do.” For they bind heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on men's shoulders; but they themselves will not move them with one of their fingers.” But all their works they do to be seen by men. They make their phylacteries broad and enlarge the borders of their garments.” They love the best places at feasts, the best seats in the synagogues, “greetings in the marketplaces, and to be called by men, 'Rabbi, Rabbi.' (Matt 23:1-7)

They were the rulers of the people, they made the rules. They told the people how to obey the Bible but Jesus said not to copy their actions. They were the best dressed and the most respected in the community, they look so but what they said did not match their action. Their religious items were always seen but they did not care for people at all, they made it hard for the people to worship right and made it easy for themselves. They loved to be called by their title (apostle, prophet etc.), they sat where all could see them whether it was at a celebration or in the Assembly.

“But woe to you Pharisees! For you tithe mint and rue and all manner of herbs, and pass by justice and the love of God. These you ought to have done, without leaving the others undone.” In Matthew 23:23 Jesus explains they “have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faith.” These you ought to have done.” Here Jesus makes it clear that living the life of faith toward God included love toward man that was just as important as what you give to God; and this was under the law, not grace. However when you see a lack of grace and mercy in a person’s life is often a sign of something wrong. A lack of compassion for the poor and neglecting to help people when you are able shows whom you are serving. We see in the Pharisees the example of false teachers who majored in the lesser things of the law, and neglected the greater. As Jesus pointed out “justice and mercy and faith. These you ought to have done, without leaving the others undone” (Matthew 23:23; Micah 6:8). The Pharisees became blind because they upheld their own laws and interpretations over Moses, and were stricter at enforcing them. It was the Pharisees whose hearts were hard and cold and self absorbed. The nature of Jesus shows compassion and is willing to help by giving and telling the truth. It was the Pharisees who were so religious that thought they could do no wrong and that they were beyond question.

A good example of a Pharisee transformed is Paul, whose ministry was an open book. Paul made a living making tents being the apostle with the most miracles recorded he did not advertise the apostle Paul’s ministry and make it into an empire. Paul did not write a book on his going to heaven or his miracles he accomplished. He did not make merchandise of the ministry the Lord gave him. He was careful to build on the foundation.

It was the Pharisees who demanded to see miracles from Jesus, they would not consider believing without a miracle by what he said, they needed a sign.

Mark 8:11-12 Then the Pharisees came out and began to dispute with Him, seeking from Him a sign from heaven, testing Him. But He sighed deeply in His spirit, and said, “Why does this generation seek a sign? Assuredly, I say to you, no sign shall be given to this generation.”

Matt 12:38-39 Then some of the scribes and Pharisees answered, saying, “Teacher, we want to see a sign from You.” But He answered and said to them, “An evil and adulterous generation seeks after a sign, and no sign will be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah.”

Matt 16:1 “Then the Pharisees and Sadducees came, and testing Him asked that He would show them a sign from heaven. V.4 Jesus’ response “A wicked and adulterous generation seeks after a sign, and no sign shall be given to it except the sign of Jonah.”

To the generation that continued to ask for miracles he said no sign except the gospel. And while the crowds were thickly gathered together, He began to say, “This is an evil generation. It seeks a sign, and no sign will be given to it except the sign of Jonah the prophet” (Luke 11:29).

Jesus answered and said to them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He sent.” Therefore they said to Him, “What sign will You perform then, that we may see it and believe You? What work will You do?” (John 6:29-30)

Jesus if your here let me see miracle! Your word is not powerful enough unless a miracle happens! We need miracles for the world to believe! Jesus give us a miracle. 

 Then many came to Him (Jesus) and said, “John performed no sign, but all the things that John spoke about this Man were true.” And many believed in Him there” (John 10:41-42).

The word and teaching Jesus gave was not good enough, it was not sufficient to produce faith, they needed to see it or experience it. Consider what is being said today this has a direct application to our generation. Must we see a sign to prove someone serves the Lord or is the fruit of the Spirit enough. 

Beware of the Leaven of the Pharisees


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