One of the groups I love to hate in scripture are the Pharisees. I enjoy nodding along as I hear Jesus rebuke those self-righteous religious leaders, and I never cease to be shocked by their ignorance and indifference towards his identity. I often wonder, "How did such educated church leaders miss the obvious coming of God's own son?" and "How could they listen to his rebukes and not be moved to question their own motives?" It's amazing. Specifically in Matthew 23, there is a nice thorough list of woes and rebukes aimed directly at the Pharisees and Scribes, who Jesus blatantly condemns to eternal damnation.
But the longer I'm a Christian, especially as I gain knowledge about the bible, I realize I risk looking more like the Pharisees than like Christ. Rephrase...I realize I DO look more like the Pharisees than like Christ when it comes to certain aspects of my life and heart attitude. Especially in motherhood.
Although these Pharisaical qualities can be lived out in any context, I found myself reading in Matthew and wondering how these might look in the life of a Christian mother today.
Signs of the Pharisee Mom:
- She doesn't live what she teaches her children to do. She has them pray before meals and before bed, but neglects to go to her own Father in prayer.
- She makes the Christian life a heavy burden for her children, enforcing meticulous rules and high scriptural standards apart from the gospel.
- She loves to be seen as a good parent in front of others, especially embracing cultural norms so that others think she is really creative / resourceful / thrifty / healthy / and fun. If possible, she is sure these things are evident on social media.
- She enjoys when people compliment her style and parenting choices.
- She hopes to be sought out as a resource for other moms who want to learn more about how she makes great choices for her family.
- She is unwilling to spend much time doing lowly, unglamorous tasks that aren't seen by others. If she has to do a lowly task like this, she makes sure to post about it so others can know about her good deeds.
- She seeks to be the model biblical woman, adhering to every small thing that would make her 'saintly' in the church, even when it might not be the loving choice for her husband and children.
- She focuses on making sure her children are well-behaved, but neglects to address the sin in their hearts with the good news.
- She is outwardly righteous, and is seen as a mom to aspire to, but inside she refuses to lean on Jesus and acknowledge her need for Him.
Did anyone else GULP as they read those applications? Because even as I typed that out, I felt like a big finger was pointing right at me. It's easy to sit on this side of history and eye-roll the pharisees, but when we consider how those same sins play out in our lives, it's sobering.
But there is one thing I love that Jesus says as he continues on in His rebuke, and it's a line that I haven't previously paid any attention to:
"How often I would have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing!" Matthew 23:37
The truth is, Israel had MANY chances to follow God in faith. The Pharisees had all the right information, and Jesus was willing to receive them and gather them under his wings. But they were not willing, they rejected him. God's chosen people turned away from him. So in this passage, even under God's sovereignty, we see that we are responsible for our hardness of heart.
As Christian women, seeking to live out the role as mother in a 'biblical' way, we can continue to pursue righteous living. This is a path I'm often guilty of. And it looks good, because upholding the letter of the law looks acceptable on the outside. But there is something better and more important...a life that pursues Jesus himself, and rests in the work that he has done, which produces the fruit of righteousness. This is a subtle but critical difference. Jesus is the true treasure, not the law.
I'm praying alongside you for God to have mercy on our retched obsession with looking good on the outside, and draw us near in the joy of Christ.