How can we trust again?

November 22, 2020 • Filed under:

I describe Pharisees as the prideful (snobby) church leaders that enforced additional rules and responsibilities onto people that are not in the bible. Scribes also added many laws and traditions of their own.

Jesus didn’t like either very much.

The subtitle of Matthew chapter 23 is, Seven Woes to the Scribes and Pharisees. Referring to both, Jesus instructed the people to observe whatever they tell you, but not the works they do. For they preach, but do not practice. (23:3)

I am guilty as charged.

As a parent, have I ever instructed my kids to do something I don’t do? Yes, I have. Don’t snack before dinner, I say, but then I snack before dinner. Don’t watch too much television, but I watch a show after they go to bed when I need to be sleeping too.

They tie up heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on people’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to move them with their finger. (23:4)

Have I ever laid expectations on my children and then sat back and commanded perfection from a distance? (Think about cleaning their room, doing homework, working in the yard while the parent watches and criticizes but won’t help or is not willing to do the same work.) Have I failed to come alongside them? Has my tone been demanding, prideful and harsh? Yes.

They do all their deeds to be seen by others. (Matthew 23:5a)

Have I done anything for show, anything at all? Have I ever been doing a good deed while wondering if someone is watching, or being pleased when I realize someone had observed my good behavior? Yes.

..and they love the place of honor at feasts and the best seats in the synagogues and greetings in the marketplaces and being called rabbi by others. (Matthew 23:6-7)

Do I enjoy an event more when I am recognized as a leader, or am the speaker? Do I sometimes share my job title in conversation unnecessarily? Yes. When I find myself adding unnecessary extra details about myself, it’s usually not for a good reason. It’s usually for a moment of show or a cover-up for insecurity.

And call no man your father on earth, for you have on Father, who is in heaven. Neither be called instructors, for you have one instructor, the Christ. (Matthew 23:9-10)

I am a teacher. Some all me a teacher, but I am not. All I can do is point others to the one instructor, Christ. When I allow anyone to point to me, I am acting like a Pharisee.

The subtitle of Matthew chapter 23 is, Seven Woes to the Scribes and Pharisees. I spent some time studying the woes this week and don’t have time to review them here, but this chapter begs the question:

Am I a Pharisee?

In my opinion, I am not. I can certainly look like one at times, and when I do, it’s sinful behavior that requires me to confess and change my ways, pronto! It is characteristic of me to live in this manner. As a Christian aiming to walk closely with God, I do not practice the lifestyle of a Pharisee. I have been thinking lately about the difference between someone who is practicing how to stop sinning and one who is honing and practicing their sin to be really good at it.

These groups of people look very different.

I don’t have my thoughts worked out yet, but a person who is trying to stop sinning – who is practicing not sinning – is either open with others about their struggles or finds it impossible to hide their struggles and knows everyone can see so they don’t try to hide. A person trying to stop sinning seeks accountability to stay on track, seeks help and commonly apologizes when her or she messes up.

A person who is practicing being a Pharisee may be recognizable by their prideful posture, excessive rules and judgmental spirit, but it also true that some people have the capacity to look good on the outside but have sinful practices that are well-kept secrets. Around such people, we may suspect something is up, but it is also possible that we suspect nothing at all.

Sometimes we trust someone who is not worthy of our trust.

Is it our fault when we fail to grasp someone is a Pharisee or scribe, or a hypocrite? Is it our fault when we can’t detect someone is practicing evil behind a front of piety and holiness?

I propose it is not our fault.

I have counseled women who have been betrayed in marriage. Invariably they exclaim in their pain things like, How could I have not known? I feel so stupid! I should have known!

My response has always the same. No, it was your honor to trust him. You are supposed to be able to trust your husband and acted honorably and rightly when you did so.

There are godly people in the world worthy of being trusted. Paul wrote, Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ. (1 Corinthians 11:1) First of all, I hope to make such a statement one day. I believe it’s the direction God is growing each of his children. Second, if we become suspicious and distrustful of all people (to protect us from some), we will not treat deserving saints in a manner worthy of their character, and that would be a travesty.

We can trust people because we trust God.

Sure, we will be duped by some people at times, but God is in charge of their souls and we are responsible for ours. We are not to be blamed for trusting people based on whatever it is we know about them as of today. Any suffering we incur because of their actions is wrapped up in suffering God allowed for our good.

Near the end of the bible, these verses appear: Blessed are those who wash their robes, so that they may have the right to the tree of life and that they may enter the city by the gates. Outside are the dogs [a spiritual predator who feeds off others] and sorcerers and the sexually immoral and murders and idolaters, and everyone who loves and practices falsehood. (Revelation 22:14-15)

If you are not loving falsehood, if you are not practicing and honing your skills of deception, then I would say you are not a Pharisee, and neither am I.

Picture Explanation:  A COVID safe wedding shower took place. I am starting to hear the wedding bells.    

© 2020 by Oaks Ministries. All rights reserved.


  • LeAnn says:

    Hi, Friend.
    Thank you for this discerning post. We should always be in the process of self-examination. If we see sin in another, we should examine our own eye first. We should always be humble about the process we are in.

    Thank you for bringing to the fore that in the church there are indeed Pharisees. A tree is known by its fruit. You always speak about God’s holiness and love needing to be in balance. It is important for the church to recognize that when a Pharisee is causing harm, division and strife, God is not glorified, and the church should deal swiftly with such a one rather than enabling him/her. Proverbs 19:19 says, “A hot-tempered person must pay the penalty; rescue them, and you will have to do it again.” How many more women, children, and men could be rescued from Pharisees if believers would take this passage and passages on church discipline to heart!

    Holiness and love. We need to wear both lenses so that we see ourselves and others aright. I was meditating on Psalm 23 today. Shepherds love and care for their sheep. In “holiness” they fight off intruders and enemies in order to protect their precious sheep. Invaders pay the penalty! In “love” Shepherds lead, guide, care for, provide for, and comfort their precious sheep. Their meek sheep enjoy the benefits of the Shepherd’s protection.

    Lord, we need you to open our eyes, hearts, and minds to the whole counsel of Scripture. Help us to take our sin seriously. Help us to be good, godly Shepherds willing to sacrifice for our sheep and to protect them “for your name’s sake.”

    Wedding bells are tolling. Congrats to the couple and all of you!

    • Laurie says:

      Ah, friend. Thank you for reading to the end. The open rate is very low on this post, probably due to the holiday week and heavy content. Lack of quality leadership in the body of Christ has been heavy on my mind lately due to friends suffering from poor leadership and well-respected leaders being exposed for evil deeds. So many people are left in the wake of leadership sin shaking their heads in bewilderment and wondering how to heal their wounded hearts. It’s a matter that can’t be addressed in a blog post but I need to practice communicating about this issue.

      Jackie Hill Perry’s study on Jude rocked my boat this year. Indeed, we are to become proficient at spotting and ridding of false teachers, and I pray we do, but some leaders are masterful at hiding their sin and I don’t think we can always bear the blame for failing to spot them and none of us will benefit from a blanket suspicion of all leaders. I wonder if we should be praying more about this and letting God do the exposing and ridding.

  • LeAnn says:

    Thank you for speaking well of the tension between being wise but not suspicious and continuing to trust. It is difficult to trust after feeling betrayed. May the church grow in discernment in order to protect the flock.

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