Are You A Pharisee Or A Disciple? (Part 1)

I am ashamed to admit it, but I have been a Pharisee.  So I can easily recognize the symptoms.  Fortunately, I have also been a disciple, and I too know what that looks like.  In this post I want to share with you a thought that hopefully will challenge how you look at others.  In other words, are you looking at others through Pharisaical glasses or disciple glasses?

Jesus had dealings with many types of people.  But two of the most prominent He dealt with were the Pharisees (and other Jewish leaders) and His disciples.  Whenever Jesus spoke “harshly,” it was always directed at the Jewish religious leaders of His day and principally that was the “Pharisees.”  So I want to examine and answer the question “How does a Pharisee act?” and “How does that Pharisaical attitude manifest itself in today’s church?”


  1. A Pharisee wouldn’t touch another “sinner” (Luke 7:39).  When Jesus allowed a sinful woman to touch him and wash his feet with her tears and wipe them with her hair and anoint them with expensive alabaster ointment, the Pharisee who had invited Jesus into his home became indignant and said within himself “…This man, if he were a prophet, would have known who and what manner of woman [this is] that toucheth him: for she is a sinner.”  Jesus knew the Pharisee’s heart and thoughts and rebuked him for thinking this way.  A modern day Pharisee would rather not have anything to do with a sinner!  Jesus welcomes all with a pure and sincere heart. Tweet This
  2. A Pharisee is never satisfied or content and is always looking for others faults.  In Luke 7:31-34 Jesus asked the question “To what can I compare the people of this generation? How can I describe them?”  When He asked this question He was referring to how He could describe the Pharisees. He went on to explain that they were never content no matter what was done and he compared them to children playing in the public square: “They are like children playing a game in the public square. They complain to their friends, ‘We played wedding songs, and you didn’t dance, so we played funeral songs, and you didn’t weep.'”  In other words they rejected John the Baptist and called him a man possessed with a demon because he didn’t participate in eating bread and drinking wine, yet they called Jesus a glutton and a drunkard because He attended feasts and drank with and was friends with tax collectors and other sinners. The modern Pharisee is forever finding fault in other people and never satisfied and content.  Tweet This They are forever complaining yet never offering solutions.
  3. A Pharisee worries about the minor and insignificant things while ignoring the more important truths. (Luke 11:38-54) Look at this list of attitudes the Pharisee has and see if you can find yourself:
    • The Pharisee is worried about the external appearance and not the internal ugliness of the heart. (Luke 11:39)
    • The Pharisee ignores justice and the love of God and neglects the important things. (Luke 11:42)
    • The Pharisee loves to be recognized by men more than God. (Luke 11:43)
    • The Pharisee keeps “hidden” the corruption on the inside of their heart. (Luke 11:44)
    • The Pharisee makes unbearable demands on others without ever trying to help ease their burden. (Luke 11:46) They are more interested in pointing out all of the wrong without ever offering a way to ease the pain of others.
    • The Pharisee keeps knowledge away from the people. (Luke 11:52)
  4. A Pharisee exalts themselves and denigrates others. (Luke 18:11)  They think they are so righteous and pure while others are sinners and evil.  When comparing the Pharisee and sinner in Luke 18:10-14 Jesus said the sinner left justified “For every one that exalteth himself shall be abased (The Pharisee); and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted” (The publican or sinner). The modern Pharisee thinks they are better than everyone else.  They see your sin and not their own.
  5. A Pharisee is selective in who they attack.  When the Pharisees drug the woman caught in the act of adultery into the temple court to stone her, it’s significant they didn’t bring the man also (John 8:1-11).  A Pharisee will be selective in how they “administer their own form of judgment.”  They will let some go and others they will crucify. The modern Pharisee will use the internet to attack someone they don’t even know and have never met.  They hear a rumor and they go with it and seem to even take delight in spreading that rumor. Today’s Pharisees see it as their job to point out the faults of others and pass judgment on them.

Did you see yourself in any of these attitudes? If so, It’s not too late to make a change today!

In the next post I will describe what it means to be a disciple and make the contrast between the Pharisee and disciple.

— Keith

“Are You A Pharisee Or A Disciple?” (Part 2)




  1. Good teaching. I’m looking forward to the next. Eager to see you deal with Matthew 16:12 and the parallel passages Mark 8:15 and Luke 12:1. Did you know that the modern Rabbis claim that their doctrine is that of the Pharisees of the New Testament? And that they are proud of it? See http://www.come-and-hear.com

    • My list of Pharisaical attitudes is by no means exhaustive. I only covered some of them. The Matthew 16:12 and supporting passages certainly qualify to be added to the list. That’s interesting about how the modern Rabbis claim that their doctrine is that of the Pharisees of the New Testament. The main point of my post was to get people to really look inwardly and see if they display, today, some of the same attitudes as the Pharisees of the New Testament. Irene, you might find this post on “When People Get Scripture Wrong” by N.T. Wright particularly interesting. Especially points “J” and “K” under heading of “Misreadings of the Right.” http://www.relevantmagazine.com/god/deeper-walk/features/28844-where-people-get-scripture-wrong

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