A turning point for me was at convention one year hearing an older, a brother, highly esteemed proclaimed there were no Pharisees within the group; they were all “out there in the religious world”. Just like that, the thought occurred, “I am a Pharisee!” That was the first time I had ever acknowledged such a thing. It was startling and gave me much to think about. Immediately I read Matthew 23 where Jesus zeroed in on the Scribes, Pharisees and hypocrites big time and reading through those verses, I knew indeed that I was a Pharisee and so were a good number of people in the fellowship. It was a disturbing thought and yet it explained so much at the same time.
Admitting To being a Pharisee was one thing but a hypocrite as well? Wow! That really sounded and felt awful. Through the years since I have, unfortunately, seen areas of this trait in myself and a great deal of hypocrisy within the meeting system. Recently, under the post titled “I doubt it” a comment made by Craig Young in which he gave a very clear picture of some of the hypocrisy in the system that he has observed in his lifetime. I want to add my observations here as well.
A hypocrite says one thing but does another. Needing the approval of others seems often to be the motivator for hypocrisy and many of the group’s views on things and/or beliefs/rules continually perpetuates the hypocrisy.
- Saying there are no rules, when in reality there were many subliminal rules to adhere to.
- Saying there is unity in the fellowship when there is division on issues from one area to another; even one region, state or country from another.
- Claiming the workers go out just like the original twelve disciples when in reality they are not at all. I often would justify those verses in Matthew 10 by saying, “that was then and this is now” for such things as healing the sick, raising the dead, cleansing those who have leprosy, driving out demons because I wasn’t doing any of those things. I may have entered the Work with no money of my own (I gave it all away) but Jesus said to take no money with you period. I did in the form of stuff I said I needed. So the words about not taking a bag or extra clothes or shoes or providing anything for yourself was also explained away. My co-worker and I moved from house to house justifying it by saying, ‘that was then and this is now.’ I didn’t bless the homes when I entered them, in fact I constantly worried about what to say or how to say it.
- The claim of the fellowship existing since Jesus was here on the earth, when in reality it was started in the late 1800’s.
- As a worker, I would feel like a hypocrite when I would explain to a “stranger” why we believed such and such (I had verses written down in the back of my Bible that I had gleaned from older co-workers on what to say) because I knew I was twisting Scripture most of the time and my stomach was in knots because it wasn’t my conviction; it was someone else’s. (And who knows if even he/she was truly convicted of it!)
- Having to tell couples or individuals in a divorced/remarriage situation that we could have a meal with them and spend time in their home with them but “it would be best if we didn’t spend the night” because I had been told at a workers meeting that we couldn’t stay with them because that was sending the message that we condoned their situation. In my heart, I knew that was 100% wrong and NOTHING like what Jesus would have done.
- Listening to a brother worker tell a young girl who wanted to be baptized that he would not baptize her because she wasn’t currently wearing nylons. (I’m serious! She was in her own home besides) Why? “Because we have a standard.”
- Watching individuals being passed over during communion because they were divorced/remarried when I knew there was someone in that meeting who had an addiction to pornography or someone else who had lied on their taxes or someone like me who had committed adultery in their heart. When we as a group decided who was worthy to partake, when the reality was no one was worthy.
I went back and read Matthew 23 again and verses that stuck out to me this time were:
Verse 5 “Everything they do is done for men to see.”
Verse 13 “You shut the kingdom of heaven in men’s faces.”
Verse 23 “You have neglected the more important matters…”
Verse 28 “You appear to be righteous.”
I highly recommend “The 12 steps of a recovering Pharisee” by John Fischer. It will make you laugh and seriously reflect at the same time. The first time I read it I pointed fingers at others all the way through. I read it a second time and all the fingers pointed back at me. I have read Matthew 23 many times and pointed fingers and that very fact is proof that I was indeed a Pharisee and a hypocrite.
There is hope though! After all those scalding words recorded in Matthew 23, Jesus tells them how he still feels about them. He longed to gather them to his heart; to have them close to him. He had by no means given up on them. Paul was a big time Pharisee but he let go of all of it to follow Jesus. Christians are made fun of worldwide for being called hypocrites because others are not blind like we are sometimes.
May we let the Holy Spirit refine our spirits, our inner lives, our character; make them clean and holy. May we be genuine through and through and take responsibility when we are not. May we do everything as unto the Lord. May we truly reflect the Lord Jesus Christ in every part of our lives.