10 Signs you’d be more comfortable with the Pharisees than with Jesus (pt. 3)

1. You can tell a sinner that unless he repents and believes he is going to hell, but you won’t love him through the process of understanding the implications of these truths.

2. You only want to “hang out” with Christians who are as serious about the Christian faith as you are.

3. You protect your personal ministry because it is your identity.

4. Your conscience is etched in stone.

God gave us a conscience to help us distinguish right from wrong.  This is a necessary addition to the law because the law does not deal with every imaginable situation.  We have to use wisdom to discern how the bible applies to our particular situation.  That is where our conscience comes in.  It’s like a check engine light for our soul.  However, unlike the law, it is not infallible.  Our consciences can be defiled and dulled by sin, or “over baked” (i.e. overly sensitive) by immaturity.  That is why we need to distinguish our conscience from the law.  The Pharisees didn’t do that.  Their consciences were etched in stone.  They imposed their interpretations and applications of the law on other people.

We see this trait in the Pharisees very clearly in Mark 7:1-13:

Now when the Pharisees gathered to him, with some of the scribes who had come from Jerusalem, they saw that some of his disciples ate with hands that were defiled, that is, unwashed. (For the Pharisees and all the Jews do not eat unless they wash their hands properly, holding to the tradition of the elders, and when they come from the marketplace, they do not eat unless they wash. And there are many other traditions that they observe, such as the washing of cups and pots and copper vessels and dining couches.) And the Pharisees and the scribes asked him, “Why do your disciples not walk according to the tradition of the elders, but eat with defiled hands?” And he said to them, “Well did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written, “ ‘This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me; in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’ You leave the commandment of God and hold to the tradition of men.” And he said to them, “You have a fine way of rejecting the commandment of God in order to establish your tradition! For Moses said, ‘Honor your father and your mother’; and, ‘Whoever reviles father or mother must surely die.’ But you say, ‘If a man tells his father or his mother, “Whatever you would have gained from me is Corban” ’ (that is, given to God)— then you no longer permit him to do anything for his father or mother, thus making void the word of God by your tradition that you have handed down. And many such things you do.”

That the Pharisees would hold Jesus to their standard is amazing.  They weren’t asking Him to submit to the authority of Scripture.  They were asking Him to submit to the authority they thought was in the oral tradition of the elders.  They thought that their own application of the law held binding authority over everyone.  They wanted to impose their conscience on everyone around them. 

This is a dangerous way to live the Christian life.  You begin to value your own specific way of living out the bible so much that you expect others to do it exactly the same way.  The heart attitude behind this is that “my way is not only the wisest way, but it is the only way.”  We must be very careful about an attitude like this.  God, in His word, is the only one who can make this statement.  He has every right to expect us to live the way that He has commanded, but we do not have the right to expect others to live according to our personal convictions.  Unfortunately this is what the Pharisees did when they went after Jesus for not keeping a rule that was not even in God’s word.

The apostle Paul makes it clear in several places that followers of Jesus must inform their consciences with Scripture (rather than have them etched in stone) and they must follow their consciences with an attitude of love toward others (rather than imposing it on others).  For instance, 1 Cor 10:23-11:1 says,

“All things are lawful,” but not all things are helpful. “All things are lawful,” but not all things build up. Let no one seek his own good, but the good of his neighbor. Eat whatever is sold in the meat market without raising any question on the ground of conscience. For “the earth is the Lord’s, and the fullness thereof.” If one of the unbelievers invites you to dinner and you are disposed to go, eat whatever is set before you without raising any question on the ground of conscience. But if someone says to you, “This has been offered in sacrifice,” then do not eat it, for the sake of the one who informed you, and for the sake of conscience— I do not mean your conscience, but his. For why should my liberty be determined by someone else’s conscience? If I partake with thankfulness, why am I denounced because of that for which I give thanks? So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. Give no offense to Jews or to Greeks or to the church of God, just as I try to please everyone in everything I do, not seeking my own advantage, but that of many, that they may be saved. Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ.

Pharisees impose their conscience on all those around them.  Followers of Jesus use their conscience to seek God’s glory and love those around them.