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Say “Hi" to Pharisee Phil

Let’s call him Pharisee Phil.  There are lots of other monikers given in secular life, especially one I won’t use because we have a Karen in our midst who is decidedly unlike the heretofore named pest.  Maybe you know the kind of person I’m describing.  Knows a bit more, knows a bit better, has all the right answers and is never shy about sharing.  Yes, and loves to hear themselves talk.  And talk.  And talk.

Pharisee Phil meets all the above criteria except in a religious context.  Knows the right interpretation of Scripture, knows the right cultural attitudes that grow out of that interpretation, knows the right behavior and how to relate to others, you know, who we love and who we hate—oh, and isn’t shy about sharing;  Pharisee Phil is the kind of person who causes you to grab your cell phone and pretend to be on a call when you see them coming.  Sadly, it’s an ineffective strategy given they will simply wait to impart their special wisdom on you.

Jesus is careful not to create Pharisee Phils, although his teaching in the Sermon on the Mount can be misappropriated if not taken as a whole.  Our righteousness has to exceed the Scribes and Pharisees, according to Jesus.  There are almost impossible righteousness requirements spelled out in chapter five of Matthew.  Pharisee Phil will know this and delude himself into thinking he has hit the mark and made the grade.  Hubris anyone?

Chapter six of Matthew opens with Jesus thinking about the Pharisee Phils in our midst.  “Beware of practicing your righteousness to seen by others….”  Oh my!  Jesus instructs us that our motivation for behavior, especially the practice of our faith, is as important the behavior itself.  Do we seek to love God by loving others?  Do we seek to please Jesus, and Jesus alone?  Do we build up community and foster peace?  Can we get out of our own way?  Can we simply not be clueless for once?

Here’s what Jesus says about Pharisee Phil: he has been seen by others and has therefore already received his reward from them—but not from God.  Our work with the Sermon on the Mount continues Sunday as we move into chapter six.

See you then,


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