“What sorrow awaits you teachers of religious law and you Pharisees. Hypocrites! For you are careful to tithe even the tiniest income from your herb gardens, but you ignore the more important aspects of the law—justice, mercy, and faith. You should tithe, yes, but do not neglect the more important things. Blind guides! You strain your water so you won’t accidentally swallow a gnat, but you swallow a camel! (NLT)
It is very easy to poke fun at the Pharisees of Jesus’ day. They are the ones who major on the minors. They are the ones who impose legalistic rules on the people. They are the ones who are supposed to be experts in Scripture and who yet miss its most important message about the Messiah.
No wonder they are called blind guides. People look to them to lead them but they are led astray. People look to them for help and are given hurdles to jump. People respect their authority and yet they abuse that authority.
While all that is true, if we make too much of ridiculing the Pharisees we run the risk of falling into their ways of thinking and acting. Do we not major on minor issues? Do justice, mercy and faith get priority in our proclamation or do rules and regulations and denominational traditions hold centre stage? In sharing our message are we offering release from a burden or simply imposing another burden? Have we become those who study the Scriptures but miss the point of them?
Pharisees are fair game and their religious party is now history. But their spirit still shadows our contemporary church. Blind guides didn’t die out in the first century.