Matthew 16: 6 Then Jesus said unto them, Take heed and beware the leaven of the Pharisees and the Sadducees.
Matthew 16: 11-12 11 How is it that ye do not understand that I spake it not to you concerning bread, that ye should beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees?
12 Then understood they how that he bade them not beware of the leaven of bread, but of the doctrine of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees.
I wonder at many Christians today. If we heard Jesus tell us the same thing as in verse 6, would we wonder if Jesus was against white bread?
Jesus expects a certain amount of common sense in reading his word. For instance, when he taught the disciples the "Lord's prayer," he said "after this manner pray ye." He wasn't telling them to repeat the following phrases. He was giving us an outline to follow. Do we really think that, when Jesus prayed for hours and hours, all he did was repeat the words of that prayer over and over? Of course not!
I could write a book on modern Pharisaical doctrines, but let's cut to the root of the problem. What were the root causes of Pharisee leaven?
Luke 18:11-14King James Version (KJV)
11 The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican.
12 I fast twice in the week, I give tithes of all that I possess.
13 And the publican, standing afar off, would not lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven, but smote upon his breast, saying, God be merciful to me a sinner.
14 I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other: for every one that exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted.
Pharisees think very highly of themselves. But, the Lord sees the heart. Notice here that Jesus did not say that the Pharisee prayed to God. Rather,he said, the Pharisee prayed with himself.
The Pharisee sees themselves as perfect, holy, just, and not in need of the salvation they say others are so badly in need of. They are the ultimate deciders of all that is truth. They are above all lowly sinners. And woe be to the ones who dare argue against their theology. For to argue with their theology is to cast down on the holiness of their person and challenge their righteous leadership.
Yet, Paul says "ALL have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God." (Romans 3:23).
Beware, dear Christian, of the leader that cannot be questioned. Beware of the leader that sets flimsily supported rules that you must follow because they say so. Run away from the leader who talks down to you (because they see themselves as above you). Disconnect from the leader who has every right to dig into every nook and cranny of your lives, but is offended when questioned about their own.
Indeed, Jesus warns against this style of leadership:
Matthew 20:25-27King James Version (KJV)
25 But Jesus called them unto him, and said, Ye know that the princes of the Gentiles exercise dominion over them, and they that are great exercise authority upon them.
26 But it shall not be so among you: but whosoever will be great among you, let him be your minister;
27 And whosoever will be chief among you, let him be your servant:
In the church, the "leaders" are called upon to SERVE the flock. If you hear a leader say, "If you're called into the ministry, you should be willing to cut the church grass, clean toilets, wash the pastor's car, etc," yet, they themselves no longer do the very things you are being instructed to do, do not follow that leader. He is a Pharisee. He believes that you have to pay your dues in service until you arrive at your God-ordained position, then others are to serve you.
This is not true. A true Christian leader is always looking to serve his family and others, because that's what Jesus would have him to do. If your leader expects you to be at his beckon call, but rarely answers the phone when you need him (and even more rare is the response to your need), then your leader is a Pharisee. Leave them behind.
2) Public show of religion and position.
Mark 12:38-40King James Version (KJV)
38 And he said unto them in his doctrine, Beware of the scribes, which love to go in long clothing, and love salutations in the marketplaces,
39 And the chief seats in the synagogues, and the uppermost rooms at feasts:
40 Which devour widows' houses, and for a pretence make long prayers: these shall receive greater damnation.
Beware of the scribes, which desire to walk in long robes, and love greetings in the markets, and the highest seats in the synagogues, and the chief rooms atfeasts;
Ever gaze in awe at the "holy procession" as they enter an area? They seem to gaze down upon their observers, throwing a crumb of a smile (or a handshake) at the crowd gathering around them. They usually have some form of bodyguard (or in some places they are called "armor-bearers" or "special deacons") designed to keep the crowd at bay. They are usually dressed impeccably in the finest clothes, drive (or are driven) fancy cars, and always have an entourage with them.
They love to be asked to pray at public and political gatherings. They love to be seen and heard by as many as possible. They appear to have it all together and tell others that they would do well to follow in their holy footsteps.
Yet, ask these same leaders for comfort in a time of your need and they have no time for you. Many a widow will send them their last dime to help "the word of God to go forth," yet these same leaders will not help that same widow by paying bill for her, feeding her, or (gasp) cutting her yard.
They love the lofty positions, nice clothes, and highly visible seats on the platforms, but they would never deign to reach down and humbly serve you (unless it's a photo-op). They ride to church in a limo or a helicopter, but won't help you fix your car so you can care for your family.
Run away from these wolves in sheep's clothing, my Christian friends.
3) Religion, not a relationship with God.
Matthew 23:25-28King James Version (KJV)
25 Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye make clean the outside of the cup and of the platter, but within they are full of extortion and excess.
26 Thou blind Pharisee, cleanse first that which is within the cup and platter, that the outside of them may be clean also.
27 Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye are like unto whited sepulchres, which indeed appear beautiful outward, but are within full of dead men's bones, and of all uncleanness.
28 Even so ye also outwardly appear righteous unto men, but within ye are full of hypocrisy and iniquity.
They are much more concerned with the appearance of the outside of a man, than they are the condition of the heart. I'm not saying the outside isn't important. But, if you get the inside right with God, God will work on the outside, as well.
They spend their time building a long religious checklist that supposedly guarantees heaven to those who adhere to them. Yet, these checklists are all religious duties designed to appease God and bring blessings. What did Jesus say of this when questioned about a part of their laws?
Matthew 22:16-22King James Version (KJV)
16 And they sent out unto him their disciples with the Herodians, saying, Master, we know that thou art true, and teachest the way of God in truth, neither carest thou for any man: for thou regardest not the person of men.
17 Tell us therefore, What thinkest thou? Is it lawful to give tribute unto Caesar, or not?
18 But Jesus perceived their wickedness, and said, Why tempt ye me, ye hypocrites?
19 Shew me the tribute money. And they brought unto him a penny.
20 And he saith unto them, Whose is this image and superscription?
21 They say unto him, Caesar's. Then saith he unto them, Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar's; and unto God the things that are God's.
22 When they had heard these words, they marvelled, and left him, and went their way.
Was Jesus ordering us to tithe (as some have mistakenly used this passage to try and say)? NO. The subject of this was not tithing, or even paying taxes. Jesus' point was that, just as Caesar had a right to determine how the coins made with his inscription were spent, God had a right to determine how the lives of humans (made in his image) were to conduct themselves.
In other words, we are to submit our whole lives (inside and out) to a real relationship with God. A formal, showy religion that does nothing but white wash the outside of a man, leaves the inside dead to the things of God.
4) Bad fruit
Matthew 7:15-17King James Version (KJV)
15 Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves.
16 Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles?
17 Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit.
Their "Christian followers" will be as condescending and self righteous as they are. Jesus said well when he told the Pharisees that (Matthew 23:15)
Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye compass sea and land to make one proselyte, and when he is made, ye make him twofold more the child of hell than yourselves.
Their new converts become just as unloving and rigid as their leaders. They make up more and more rules that they say you must follow or go to hell. They have a checklist and all who enter must measure up to it. I even heard of one "pastor" who had a small ruler in his pocket. Every female member of his congregation who entered "his church" had to allow him to measure the puff in her hair. If it went beyond what he considered a reasonable puff, then he would lift his hand and physically push the puff down against her head.
Where is this arbitrary standard that he held in the scriptures? IT'S NOT THERE.
Yet, his die hard church family would defend his right to do so and tell you that you weren't submissive enough to make heaven if you refused his standard.
But, it gets even worse.
Many times, these hard men of God have children. And these children either become harder than he was, or they run away from God completely and go wild. Why? Because either they work hard to impress their father, or they give up trying altogether.
The sad truth is that these children, many times, become two-fold children of hell because it's twice as hard to reach them with the truth of a loving savior than it is to reach the father who caused all their heartache in the first place.
Jesus didn't say that the world will know us by our doctrine- though doctrine is important. He didn't say they will know us by our nice clothes, high education, lofty titles, and large buildings built for the glory of God. What did he say?
By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.
As I said on another post: Love is and action verb. People will not know we are Christians by our lofty words. They will know our love for them when we give to them of what we have. If they need friendship, we will be a friend. If they need a yard mowed, we will break out the mower. If they need food, we will feed them.
The Pharisees are goats, not sheep. Goats do nothing but consume. Sheep are stubborn, but much more loving and they will follow their shepherd. And the only difference between the sheep and goats in scripture? What they did and didn't do, as the late Keith Green pointed out.
Matthew 25:31-46King James Version (KJV)
31 When the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory:
32 And before him shall be gathered all nations: and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats:
33 And he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left.
34 Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world:
35 For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in:
36 Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me.
37 Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink?
38 When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee?
39 Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee?
40 And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.
41 Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels:
42 For I was an hungred, and ye gave me no meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me no drink:
43 I was a stranger, and ye took me not in: naked, and ye clothed me not: sick, and in prison, and ye visited me not.
44 Then shall they also answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, or athirst, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not minister unto thee?
45 Then shall he answer them, saying, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye did it not to one of the least of these, ye did it not to me.
46 And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal.