The odds are good that someone, somewhere, at some point has called you a Pharisee. The odds are even better that you’ve slapped that label on someone else.
It’s no surprise that the name “Pharisee” carries a leprous stigma. They’re the villains virtually every time they appear in the pages of Scripture. Jesus never had anything good to say about them. And their heavy-handed, legalistic authority made them a scourge to all of Israel—even other pious Jews.
In the evangelical vernacular, “Pharisee” is the umbrella term used to describe the gatekeepers of Jewish religion in the time of Christ. There were different ranks and factions—Scribes, Lawyers, Rabbis, Sadducees, Pharisees, and others—but all of them collectively represented the pharisaical religious system.
However, in modern usage the term cuts a much wider swath. And it’s that haphazard use that’s in focus for us today. God’s people need to break the habit of “playing the Pharisee card”—particularly to deflect confrontation or dismiss a rebuke. The fact is, there are modern Pharisees lurking among the church today. We do need to be able to spot them. But we also need to be careful how we deploy this potent pejorative.
To that end, let’s consider three biblical earmarks of these corrupt characters.
If You Supplement Scripture with Man-Made Rules, You Might Be a Pharisee