Pharisaism in overalls
"... I thank you that I am not like other men ..." (v.11)
The fruit of the Spirit is not something that is achieved or manufactured, but something that is experienced as we abide in Christ and allow the Holy Spirit to produce in us the lineaments of Christ's character.
Many people have equated the sanctified life with keeping an ethical code, but the ethical code is not the source of sanctification but the result of it. If the path of ethical achievement is achieved by self-effort alone, then the person who achieves it comes to have pride in his achievement and falls prey to the sin of Pharisaism. Those who keep the ethical code by self-effort have a taut will and, though they might not realize it, they lapse into the sin of independence -- depending on themselves and not on God. People who struggle to exude goodness have a metallic ring about them -- they appear stern and rigid and have about them the atmosphere of a moral athlete. Those whose goodness is not imposed, but exposed from their deep relationship with the Lord, are sweetly human and exude the character of Christ.
A similar error is made by those who say they have been "doing good turns all their lives." Someone has said that this type of attitude is "the sin of Pharisaism in overalls." Self is very much at the center. It is tainted, not because the "good turns" are evil, but because they are prompted by the self-regarding principle -- I am doing them in my own way for my ends. How deeply this disease of self-interest takes hold on us! It is in you and it is in me. Recognizing it, however, is the first step toward curing it.
O Father, I see that when I strut through life in an attitude of arrogance and pride, I soon stumble. But when I surrender, I succeed. Help me to keep this perspective -- today and every day. Amen.
For Further Study
1. What is "the hope of glory"?
2. What was Paul's prayer for the Ephesians?