Records of nominal believers are rampant in the Holy Scriptures. The prophet Isaiah records the Lord saying, “These people draw near with their mouth and honor me with their lips, while their hearts are far from me, and their fear of me is a commandment taught by men,” (Isa. 29:13 ESV). A similar type of people is recorded in John’s Apocalypse, where Christ denounces such nominalism: “I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were either cold or hot! So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth,” (Rev. 3:15-16 ESV).

If there is anything that God hates more than sin itself, then it is persons who carry an external form of holiness yet contain within themselves an inauthentic, illegitimate faith, equivocating them the Johannine “lukewarm” Christian. When we fail to express our faith in God through loving our neighbors, we become Pharisaical in our religion. We become a people of ritualism and rule rather than an organism of a vibrant and expressive faith.

In Luke’s Gospel, Jesus was invited by a Pharisee to dine, an invitation which He graciously accepted. When Jesus did not clean his hands before He sat at the table, the Pharisee was amazed and secretly judged Jesus in his heart. Christ, seeing this inner judgment of the Pharisee, said to him that:

“Now you Pharisees clean the outside of the cup and of the dish, but inside you are full of greed and wickedness. You fools! Did not the one who made the outside make the inside also? So give alms for those things that are within; and see, everything will be clean for you. But woe to you Pharisees! For you tithe mint and rue and herbs of all kinds, and neglect justice and the love of God; it is these you ought to have practiced, without neglecting the others. Woe to you Pharisees! For you love to have the seat of honor in the synagogues and to be greeted with respect in the marketplaces. Woe to you! For you are like unmarked graves, and people walk over them without realizing it,” (Lk. 11:37-44 NRSV).


Is not the scathing rebuke spat by Jesus to men who neglected to express love and humility before God’s beautiful creation relevant to many Christian churches today? How many self-proclaimed Christians tithe and possess towards the witness of the Church a godly disposition, yet neglect justice and God’s love? The implications of Jesus’s rebuke towards the Pharisees speak to congregations all over the globe across all time. In this rebuke, Jesus commands His followers to not merely follow rules and codes of conduct and to not just attend Church services (although those can never hurt). Jesus wishes for them to bring the Church out into the world, so they will meet the poor and lowly wherever they might be.

In the scenario at the Pharisee’s dining table, would most Christians find themselves at ease with Christ’s words? Or would they respond like one of the lawyers who stood to oppose Christ’s words, saying, “Teacher, when you say these things you insult us too,” v.45). Evidently, those who had listened to the rebuke of Jesus did not understand His message. If we can remember, Jesus’s response to the lawyer was:

“Woe also to you lawyers! For you load people with burdens hard to bear, and you yourselves do not lift a finger to ease them. Woe to you! For you build the tombs of the prophets whom your ancestors killed. So you are the witnesses and approve of the deeds of your ancestors; for they killed them, and you build their tombs… Woe to you lawyers! For you have taken away the key of knowledge; you did not enter yourselves, and you hindered those who were entering.” When [Jesus] went outside, the scribes and Pharisees began to be very hostile toward him and to cross-examine him about many things, lying in wait for him, to catch him in something he might say, (Lk. 11:45-48, 52-54).


Every self-proclaimed follower of God at the Pharisee’s dining table is inauthentic. Although they know the proper statutes of God, they implement them wrongly upon the people. The Pharisees may have even had good intentions in performing ritualistic sacrifices and prayers to God, because they sought to earn His approval through strict implementation of the Scriptures. However, their attempts to please God did not manifest God’s love through their lives.


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Do you think you are guilty of being a pharisee in your community today?