Shutting Up the Inner Pharisee

Shutting Up the Inner Pharisee

Do you ever wonder why on earth Jesus gave such a hard time for Pharisees? They were decent folks, weren’t they? Here’s how Jesus saw it:

Frauds! Isaiah’s prophecy of you hit the bull’s-eye:
These people make a big show of saying the right thing,

but their heart isn’t in it.
They act like they’re worshiping me,
but they don’t mean it.
They just use me as a cover
for teaching whatever suits their fancy.
He then called the crowd together and said, “Listen, and take this to heart. It’s not what you swallow that pollutes your life, but what you vomit up.”
(Matthew 15: 7-11, MSG, emphasis added)

And here’s how Jesus explained it:

Peter said, “I don’t get it. Put it in plain language.”
Jesus replied, “You, too? Are you being willfully stupid? Don’t you know that anything that is swallowed works its way through the intestines and is finally defecated? But what comes out of the mouth gets its start in the heart. It’s from the heart that we vomit up evil arguments, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, lies, and cussing. That’s what pollutes. Eating or not eating certain foods, washing or not washing your hands—that’s neither here nor there.”
(Matthew 15: 15-20, MSG, emphasis added)

What does that have to do with us? Everything. John Calvin has said “The human heart has so many crannies where vanity hides, so many holes where falsehood lurks, is so decked out with deceiving hypocrisy, that it often dupes itself.” Here’s some more clarification:

“It’s easy to see a smudge on your neighbor’s face and be oblivious to the ugly sneer on your own. Do you have the nerve to say, ‘Let me wash your face for you,’ when your own face is distorted by contempt? It’s this I-know-better-than-you mentality again, playing a holier-than-thou part instead of just living your own part. Wipe that ugly sneer off your own face and you might be fit to offer a washcloth to your neighbor. (Luke 6: 41-42, MSG)

We are all so busted. Because there is an inner pharisee in all of us. Lord, have mercy!

Even if we do walk the talk we are in danger to develop a holier-than-thou attitude. C.S. Lewis warns us this way “An individual Christian may see fit to give up all sorts of things for special reasons – marriage, or meat, or beer, or cinema; but the moment he starts saying the things are bad in themselves, or looking down his nose at other people who do use them, he has taken the wrong turning.”

We need to be careful to not to feed our Inner Pharisee. We need to repent and ask Jesus to whitewash out hearts and start all over again every single morning. Because if God’s love does not fill out our hearts, soon our Inner Pharisee is having a party polluting everything that comes out of our mouths. We can’t shut up our Inner Pharisees on our own. We can’t love without grace. We can’t live without Jesus. But the good news is….we don’t have to. So my resolution is to daily surrender my whole heart to Jesus and ask him to kick the Inner Pharisee out of there. I want to be filled with love and compassion. Just like Jesus. Why don’t you join me?


Gracious God,
We repent that we’ve let our inner pharisees pig out in our hearts.
Forgive us! Cleanse us!
May our hearts brim with your love and compassion.
In Jesus’ name,

Q4U: What are the lies your Inner Pharisee tries to make you believe?

Be blessed, my fellow pilgrim, as you dare to open your whole heart for Jesus!

Photo courtesy of Luke Whiteman. This post is part of One Word at a Time: Resolution Blog carnival and What’s on My Heart Tuesdays.

14 thoughts on “Shutting Up the Inner Pharisee

  1. “Because there is an inner pharisee in all of us. Lord, have mercy!”

    I believe this, too, Mari-Anna, because I see that inner pharisee in me, anytime I start being judgmental of someone else. I need Jesus’ compassion to spill over more into me so I can spill over more onto others.

  2. Sometimes my inner-pharisee has the most problem with people I know best. It’s easier to think the best of people when you don’t have to face their worst day in and day out. My true character is most often revealed and most greatly tested at home.

  3. This is great! I love when you said, “We need to be careful to not to feed our Inner Pharisee. We need to repent and ask Jesus to whitewash out hearts and start all over again every single morning.” Great encouragement:)

  4. I loved it when you said “We can’t love without grace”. That’s so right! Our Inner Pharisee, as you named it (excellent description!), is our enemy in loving others as Jesus told us to.
    And if we look at the Bible and observe the relationship between the Pharisees and Jesus, we can say that being a Pharisee also keeps us from recognizing and receiving the love of God through Jesus.
    I echo your prayer, Mari-Anna.

    1. Thanks, Kris, for sharing your thoughts! Yes, pride certainly keeps us from receiving the love of God through Jesus. It’s freely available but in our prideful moments we don’t want to be beggars. Even if grace is the best thing ever! Lovely blessings to you, sis!

  5. Jesus sure didn’t pitter-patter around the ugliness of the human heart condition, did he? I am a life-long Christian, bible school dropout, expert on what a good sermon should be — that is my confession. I tend to prop myself on what I know rather than bow and beg for more grace, more knowledge of my savior. Then, I tend to keep close-fisted and not share the gifts he’s given me. This requires daily surrender — thank you for poking around my carefully constructed heart with truth!

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