I have counseled many, many troubled people over the years, but never once has anybody ever admitted being a Pharisee.
Although the Pharisees as a particular Jewish “sect” died out long ago, their spirit is alive and well. Insecure and controlling church leaders over the centuries have never been able to resist the temptation to make rules and laws that go beyond Scripture’s. Perhaps they mean well, trying to use the law to “improve” people, or perhaps they just enjoy exercising power over others.
Jesus considered Pharisaism a plague that he wanted his disciples to avoid: “Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples: ‘The teachers of the law and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat. So you must be careful to do everything they tell you. But do not do what they do, for they do not practice what they preach. They tie up heavy, cumbersome loads and put them on other people’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to lift a finger to move them’” (Matthew 23:1-4).
Legalists make rules and neglect love. They keep people feeling guilty as a form of mass control. They quote denominational decrees and the writings of past heroes when they should be quoting Scripture. They chafe when God’s Word has ambiguity or silence and rush to fill the gaps with pronouncements on worship styles, dress, and diet.
When you are speaking for God, say no less than Scripture does. But say no more, either.