Tag Archives: Pharisees

Palm Trees, Toy Soldiers, and Alcoholics*

palm-trees-bendingChristians, as I see it, are some of the worst at making adjustments. Life isn’t nearly as predictable as we would wish, so detours are a more regular occurrence than we planned when we embarked on the trip. So we have to learn to expect the unexpected, bring our fears about them to God and adapt to what happens.

Pharisees, the ones with the most hard-shelled spirituality are not very willing to modify their ideas on the fly. They tend to be more brittle than flexible in their faith. This inflexibility has a name. It’s uh, umm… oh yeah; it’s called “Religion!” And since the Pharisees are the same “yesterday, today, and forever,” we should all be on the lookout for this tendency to dig our heels in and refuse to bend. Continue reading


How To Read The Bible And Not Be Bored By It (Part 6 of 4ish)

I obviously have very little skill in predicting how many words it will take me to say what I want to say; thus “six parts in a four part essay”! In my final post on this subject (for now) I’m compelled to remind us about the main reason to love and study the Bible.

Read it to get to know God

A friend of mine, Tim Otto, whose book, Oriented to Faith, I’m going to review and recommend in my next post wrote:

“(For some of us) the Bible is a textbook for life with an index at the back. When confronted by a life problem or issue, we simply turn to the back, look up the relevant verses, and “Voilà!” divine wisdom is secured. In this way, the Bible becomes a kind of “owner’s manual ” for life, which can be consulted if we want to be a good leader, run a business, enhance our sex life, or lose weight. . . . In short, we get it wrong when the Bible is understood as a bundle of factoids dropped from heaven to make life work out. But we might get it right when we read Scripture as a story pointing to Christ.”
Continue reading

For the Love of God! (Professionals or Amateurs?) Part 3 of 4

To help you see where I’m coming from, the first post of this series might be helpful to read first…

Amateur Christians, not God experts…

Like I said, the “Amateur Christian” is unequivocally neither a mercenary nor an expert. S/he follows Jesus for the love of it and does so whether or not s/he is particularly good at it. Jesus’ fiercest opponents, Pharisees, embodied both traits of professional spirituality – they “loved money” (Luke 16:14) and fancied themselves God experts (Matthew 23:5).

Pascal said, “I don’t trust Christians. They know too much about God.” Of course he spoke sarcastically. He knew that we Christians don’t know as much as we think we know. It was to our small mindedness – claiming to know more than we know – that the philosopher objected. Continue reading

How To Know If You’re A Legalist (Three tests and a test case) Part 4 of 4

Some other observations about legalistic types from the story of the Prodigal’s big brother:

They tend to miss the party: “He refused to go in …” (Luke 15:28) Lots of legalist-leaning Christians are like that. They may be, in one sense, “holy,” but it’s never a happy holiness. They’re too busy keeping their halo on straight to go in and dance with joyous abandon in the father’s living room. Apparently they don’t know that God is more interested in getting us to know him than with getting stuff done on his farm! He doesn’t give birth to kids in order to get lots of work done in his fields. He brings us into the world so he can befriend us, teach us stuff, and include us in his daring mission.

They’re not very good company: “The older brother became angry…” (Luke 15:28) C.S. Lewis said, “Of all bad men, religious bad men are the worst.” At the very least legalistic people can be some of the least pleasant people on the planet. Always comparing, measuring, bragging – they don’t make very good company. Continue reading

How To Know If You’re A Legalist (Three tests and a test case) Part 2 of 4

In part 1 I said there are three factors to consider in measuring our legalistic tendencies: rules, reasons, and resources. We covered the rules factor and now we’re on to the other two factors…

The reasons…

The second factor in diagnosing the legalistic disease has to do with our reasons for obedience to certain laws. Why do we act one way and not another? What’s our ultimate motive for adhering to God’s rules? Because legalism is more of an attitude than an act, motive is at the core of it. If you’re legalistic, it’s possible you’re doing the right things for the wrong reasons.

There are at least two good reasons to follow God’s laws. First, we should be inspired to live obediently to God out of an inward attitude of gratitude to him for his goodness. We should want to serve him because we love him and want to please the one we love. Our second motivation to follow God’s laws should be that we love people and want their best. When we live for God it always benefits others around us. It therefore boils down to two things: The glory of God and the good of people. Any other stimuli are suspect of having a legalistic core. Continue reading

How To Know If You’re A Legalist (Three tests and a test case) Part 1 of 4

Three tests for legalism – Rules, Reasons, and Resources

You won’t be able to find the term, “Legalism” in the Bible, but just about every New Testament author, and some Old Testament ones, address it as a concept. I don’t think there’s ever been a Christian who, to some degree, hasn’t fallen prey to its lure. In fact, if you don’t think you have, you’re most likely under its hypnotic spell right now.

Few people are so thoroughly law-leaning that you would be inclined to label them a “Legalist.” Most followers of Jesus are made of a mixture of performance-based and grace-based faith. So, while you may not deserve to be branded a full-scale legalist it’s possible that you will discover that you display a legalistic trait or two.

Jesus was born into a religious culture filthy with legalistic types. After he left, within a few years of the fledgling Church’s birth, those with the gene had found their way into every Christian church and most of the Apostles preached and wrote to correct the legalistic disease. Beyond that, the history of the Church has been plagued with legalistic movements. Much of what we know of the Church in the Middle Ages (1,000 years worth!) was predominantly legalistic. The Reformation didn’t stamp it out for good and it prevails until today. The Pharisees are the same yesterday and today and forever! Continue reading

Outer Circle Christians (Part 4 of 6)

[I hope you’ll take a look at the 1st three posts or if you’d prefer to view the entire essay you can find it on barneywiget.com.]

The Father loves outer circle sinners and wants his inner circle sons to love them too (Luke 15:11-32)

The most familiar of the three stories is what we typically call the Prodigal Son Parable. Of all Jesus’ parables, this one probably contains the largest cache of spiritual themes and lessons. Each character is significant. There’s the defiant Outer Circle Son who rebelled and later repented. There’s the Pharisaical Inner Circle Son who detested his father’s fawning over his Outer Circle poor excuse for a brother. And then there’s the father who loves his sons fervidly and equally – both the Inner and Outer Circle one. Both sons broke their father’s heart. One left home, while the other one was never really “at home” to begin with. He was as lost as his younger brother, albeit lost while at home. The younger was lost in his rebellion with an empty stomach and the other was lost in his religion with an empty heart. Both needed to come home! Continue reading