Our Inner Pharisee

Based on Matthew 21:23-32

When I was a kid, I can’t tell you how many times I told my mother, “Of course I’ll brush my teeth!” and proceeded to bed without brushing them. I wanted to please her, but at the same time, I really didn’t want to brush my teeth – so I lied about it, hoping that would satisfy her. Of course, it didn’t, and of course, I faced the consequences later when I had a mouthful of cavities. My mother knew best, and if I had just listened to her, my life would have been better for it.


The Pharisees thought they were listening to their father by being pious and following all of the rules – but they were missing the point. They promised with their words to be faithful and honest, but their actions show clearly that they weren’t following through. When they confronted Jesus about his authority, Jesus confronted them about their actions, and they didn’t have an answer for him.


So he gave them one in the form of a parable. A man had two sons; one promised to work in the vineyard but didn’t, and the other said he would not, but changed his mind and went. The son who did the work fulfilled the will of his father, while the one who only said he would did not. When the Pharisees admitted this, Jesus gave them a blunt ultimatum: “Truly, I say to you, the tax collectors and the prostitutes go into the kingdom of God before you.”


Although the tax collectors and prostitutes were sinners and outcasts, they accepted the word of God as true and “changed their minds” – they repented. The Pharisees said that they were faithful, but did not act on it, and did not even change their minds when they were proved wrong. Jesus didn’t beat around the bush with the Pharisees. They needed to know that they needed to change.


Which are we? Pharisees or tax collectors and prostitutes? I believe we are both. We were once sinners, but we have since repented. Now that we are saved, how often do we say one thing and do another? I know I do that every day, several times a day. Instead of judging the Pharisees, we should take a good look at ourselves, see our inner Pharisee, and repent again. Then our sins will be forgiven and we can live as Jesus desires for us.