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"Don't be a Pharisee!"

Gospel of John

Week 8 Devotional

“Don’t be a Pharisee!”

(John 8:2-11)

“Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” 

When our kids were little, we were blessed to have them grow up in a community where they were surrounded by many good role models.  People that were good examples to follow, who were kind to everyone and genuinely cared about them and others, even when they were providing correction.  But as is inevitable in this life, they would eventually encounter people who were speaking and behaving badly.  And not just speaking and behaving badly, but truly having bad intentions or being mean spirited in general.  Sometimes with our kids, we would use these unexplainably not nice people simply as examples of “how not to act.”  

Throughout the New Testament gospels, we see Jesus become frustrated with the attitudes and actions of the religious leaders of the time.  He often used the Pharisees in His stories and His teachings as examples of “how not to act.”  In reading and studying about Jesus’ response to them, it’s easy for us to be appalled at the behavior of the Pharisees.  

In John chapter 8, most of us would read the story of the woman caught in adultery and have some degree of sympathy for her…..and some degree of anger and frustration toward the Pharisees.  Though their main purpose was likely to trick Jesus into contradicting either the law or Himself, they had no qualms with making a public spectacle of this woman…or of having her stoned to death.  If Jesus suggested pardoning the woman, He would be going against the law of Moses that the Pharisees held the people so strictly to; He would be accused of condoning disobedience to God.  If He agreed that she deserved to be and by the law should be stoned to death, He would be deemed a hypocrite for going against the love and grace that He had been preaching.  The Pharisees thought they had Him trapped.  And the woman was just collateral damage.  

Most people would deny being like a Pharisee.  But aren’t we sometimes guilty of Pharisee-like attitudes and behaviors?  Social media posts publicly shaming people are seen daily and it seems that a person’s bad behavior draws much more attention than anything good that they might have done.    

When someone is caught in sin, the word spreads fast and there is often almost an excitement in the voices of those sharing it.   A person can do “good things” most of their life, but one big mistake can be what they are remembered for.  Do we not often witness a “well, I’m not as bad as that person” attitude?  Does that phrase sound familiar?  It should:

“The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed this prayer: ‘I thank you, God, that I am not like other people—cheaters, sinners, adulterers. I’m certainly not like that tax collector!” -Luke 18:11

One of the most serious problems in the Church today is a failure to recognize just how sinful we really are.  We are guilty of calling out the splinter in another person's eye without ever noticing the plank in our own. Many people think if they aren’t out there committing the “big sins” such as what the woman in this story was caught in, then they just really aren’t that sinful.  And many people like to compare their “lack of sin” to someone else’s severe and public sin.  The Pharisees were great examples of pride and arrogance, of deeming themselves as upright while drawing attention to the sins and failures of others.  Pride is all about comparison. 

“Pride gets no pleasure out of having something, only out of having more of it than the next man... It is the comparison that makes you proud: the pleasure of being above the rest. Once the element of competition is gone, pride is gone.” -C.S. Lewis

Jesus’ reaction to the situation is perfect.  He quickly turns the tables on the Pharisees, asking any of them who are without sin to cast the first stone.  

“They kept demanding an answer, so he stood up again and said, “All right, but let the one who has never sinned throw the first stone!”  -John 8:7

We are all sinful. Terribly sinful. Jesus prompted a self-reflection in the Pharisees, causing them to think about the sin in their own lives, rather than condemning someone else for theirs. They had no choice but to walk away. 

Jesus was not condoning the woman’s sin.  In fact, He says to her very plainly in verse 11, “sin no more.”  He did not want her to continue in this sin, not out of fear of stoning or further public humiliation, but because of the love and thankfulness that comes from experiencing His overwhelming grace and forgiveness. This should be the reason we all avoid sin as much as possible, not because of fear of getting caught, but because we are very aware of our sinfulness and how we have been rescued from death that results from sin by the saving grace of Jesus Christ. Praise be to God!

Whether in someone else or in ourselves, sin should make us sad, should grieve us. Sin in others is never something that should be used to make ourselves look better. And another person's sin or failure should never excite us, but quite the opposite!

“In the same way, there is more joy in heaven over one lost sinner who repents and returns to God than over ninety-nine others who are righteous and haven’t strayed away!” -Luke 15:7

Jesus’ response to sin is a beautiful example as to how we should handle sin in our own lives as well as in other believers...with firm honesty, gentle correction, and support towards repentance and restoration. When we see another’s sin become public, we should consider our own sin before condemning. And if we find ourselves getting a little enjoyment from another’s downfall, it might be time for a self-check.  

In other words, don’t be a Pharisee!

“Brothers and sisters, if someone is caught in a sin, you who live by the Spirit should restore that person gently. But watch yourselves, or you also may be tempted.” -Galatians 6:1

Reflective Questions:

Have you or someone close to you faced public disgrace or shame because of sin or addiction? How can you follow Jesus’ example in the way you minister to them? 

Do you have sin in your life that you would hate for others to know about?  In thinking about the sacrifice that Jesus has made for your sin, what should your motivation be for eliminating that sin from your life?  

Prayer:  Jesus, thank You for saving us from death and removing our sin from us through Your sacrifice on the cross.  We love You and we want to live lives that show You that we are grateful for what You have done for us.  We pray that You help us to examine ourselves and that You show us areas of our life where sin exists.  Help us be compelled by love and thankfulness to rid sin from our lives and to extend grace and mercy to others, as You have done to us.  In Jesus name, amen. 

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