That Awkward Moment When You Realize You’re a Pharisee

by Larry Hehn on March 25, 2013

That awkward moment when you realize you're a PhariseeOver the past couple of weeks, I’ve gone through what I can only describe as a spiritual s***-kicking. Excuse my French, but I can’t come up with any term that describes it better than that.

By nature I’m an extreme introvert, and am wired more to deal with tasks than people. I’m a guy who makes to-do lists. Forecasts. Grocery lists. Budgets. I’m a planner and a control freak. I like all my ducks in a row.

I’ve measured my success by how many items on my lists I’ve been able to check off.

Some days, I’m this annoying boss from The Incredibles:

I’ve gotten so caught up in making sure that I do my daily Bible reading, blog reading, blog writing, praying, etc. that it has become all about the list, and not about people.

When someone asks how my spiritual life is going, I instinctively default to my list of activities. How much am I praying, reading, writing?

Not – how is God using me as an instrument of His grace to others?

“Religion” has become more important than relationship.

Crap. I’ve been a Pharisee.

Don’t get me wrong – praying, reading and writing can be good, and healthy. But not when they become a consuming activity, an item on a checklist, something that actually keeps me from sitting at Jesus’ feet.

As Jesus and the disciples continued on their way to Jerusalem, they came to a certain village where a woman named Martha welcomed him into her home. Her sister, Mary, sat at the Lord’s feet, listening to what he taught. But Martha was distracted by the big dinner she was preparing. She came to Jesus and said, “Lord, doesn’t it seem unfair to you that my sister just sits here while I do all the work? Tell her to come and help me.”

But the Lord said to her, “My dear Martha, you are worried and upset over all these details! There is only one thing worth being concerned about. Mary has discovered it, and it will not be taken away from her.” – Luke 10:38-42

Imagine that. In my pursuit for Jesus, I’ve rushed right past him, to-do list in hand.

Jesus, forgive me.

Time for me to throw away the to-do list, and sit at Your feet.

{ 9 comments… read them below or add one }

bill (cycleguy) March 25, 2013 at 5:58 am

Sounds a bit like Martha with Jesus. Nothing wrong with that.
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Kelly March 25, 2013 at 11:36 am

Oh Larry, I hear you. My Phariseeism has tended to take the form of frowning and head shaking when someone messes with the rules, but God’s displeasure at it is always the same. Letting go of judging other people’s rule-following skills has turned me into one of those people who isn’t so into following rules myself, but would rather love others with Jesus’ love. Which means I have become one of those people that I used to frown at. Which is cool. 🙂 I always feel a bit gentle and compassionate when reading about the Pharisees in Scripture, because I identify with them. It’s funny how most of us align ourselves with the person that the Pharisees are dissing when we read these passages, isn’t it? Thanks for sharing!
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Larry Hehn March 31, 2013 at 3:25 pm

If I ever catch myself saying, “I’m glad I’m not like that Pharisee,” I’m busted for sure. Thank you, Kelly!


Ken Hagerman March 25, 2013 at 12:44 pm

Man it sucks when you discover you’re the guy you’re pointing a finger at. I hate when it happens to me but clearly not enough to keep it from happening again. Oh wretched man that I am…

Good stuff, Larry.
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Larry Hehn March 31, 2013 at 3:27 pm

I’m trying to cut down on that happening, but it still rears its ugly head every once in a while. As much as it hurts, I hope and pray that I recognize it whenever it happens. Ignorance isn’t always bliss. Thank you, Ken!


Juan Cruz Jr March 25, 2013 at 5:29 pm

Larry, just this morning I was thinking about getting back to my list. I am pretty good at keeping with lists, but the last few days I’ve veered from it. I was going to sit down and plan every activity hour by hour to make sure that I stay top of all by tasks on my list, i.e. 5AM pray, 5:30AM read the Bible, 6AM work on my blog, etc…. Lists of course are not bad in and of themselves, but when we let them get in the way of relationship with God, each other, and if we see now fruit in our lives, then the lists are nor worth the paper they are written on. Awesome post, Larry.
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Larry Hehn March 31, 2013 at 3:27 pm

Right on, Juan. Thanks!


Melissa September 2, 2013 at 5:35 am

Oh this is so true! God has just revealed this to me as well..I love the title..I was in a study group at Church on Sabbath and it was about meeting peoples needs and meeting them where they are at and that we are not to be so rigid and rules orientated that we cannot be led by the Holy Spirit and it really struck me. I couldn’t look at the people speaking for fear of them seeing right through me! I’ve tried so hard for so long to be “good enough” as a Christian. I have failed to accept God’s love and forgiveness and allow Him to do the changing! I’ve been working hard on cleaning the outside of the cup! But inside I’m still broken and a sinner. Have mercy on me O God, according to Your loving kindness and tender mercies!
My question is where to from here? I’ve spent so long trying..trying to spend time with God, reading His word, trying to do everything in my life do I stop and just be at Jesus’ feet?


Larry Hehn September 2, 2013 at 10:19 pm

I think awareness is the first step. For me, it’s a daily battle. I found Messy Spirituality by Mike Yaconelli to be a very helpful book about this kind of struggle. I’m praying for you, Melissa. Thank you for sharing!


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