Lately I have been reading through the gospel of Luke in my personal scripture study. In the gospels Jesus reserves his harshest teachings, not to the “sinners” in society, but the Pharisees. The Pharisees were the “law keepers” and were known for their dedication to upholding religious ceremonies and practices. If they existed in American culture today, you would probably find them at your local church every Sunday, enrolled in bible studies, faithfully tithing their money, praying in front of the church and abstaining from “bad” activities. They were doers of the “right” things.
Jesus wasn’t buying it. He called them hypocrites, “white washed tombs,” and “unmarked graves” that people walk over without knowing it. Ouch.
As a matter of fact, in Luke 11 there is a story told about Jesus being asked by a Pharisee to dine with them. Within only moments of being there, Jesus said to them, “You fools!” and started several following sentences off with “Woe to you!” Here’s a small example from Luke 11:
“Now you Pharisees cleanse the outside of the cup and of the dish, but inside you are full of greed and wickedness. You fools! Did not he who made the outside make the inside also… But woe to you Pharisees! For you tithe mint and rue and every herb, and neglect justice and the love of God.”
I’ll admit, my first reaction to reading these things is usually to laugh. I can’t help it. I just find it humorous to picture Jesus walking up in someone’s house as a dinner guest and then just letting them know what’s up. No preface. Just straight up confrontation. I mean, be honest, is this what you would expect the famous Jesus to do?
My second reaction is usually to think something like, “Ooooooh Snap! He told you! That’s right. That’s my Jesus! He’s not some fluffy pushover.” Because I really do get annoyed when we paint Jesus in this gentle little light like he is just a white, American looking lamb who wouldn’t hurt a fly.
But then at times (when I’m willing to take an honest look at myself), I think “Ummm… uh.oh.” “Yikes.” “Oh sh–.” Something along those lines. You know, when he says something like, “Nothing is covered up that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known. Therefore whatever you have said in the dark shall be heard in the light, and what you have whispered in private rooms shall be proclaimed on the housetops.” Uh oh is right.
See, Jesus draws the line and makes clear that there are only two different types of people in the world, not 3. There are those who know Him, and those who do not. There are those who are sinful and desperate and realize that they need a doctor to fix them, and there are those who are sinful and desperate but do not think they need to be fixed. There is no 3rd group. There is no group of people who kind of know him. There is no group of people who are good people, who have fulfilled the law on their own. “None is righteous, no not one” (Romans 3:10).
“Pharisees” are people who are depending on their own achievements and acts of righteousness to earn them right standing with God. Problem is, they work so hard at cleaning up the outsides of their lives and they look like such good people, that they fail to see that regardless of how “good” their lives look on the outside, their hearts are just as sinful as the people they look down on and scoff at for being “bad.” Unfortunately, it is their very efforts toward righteousness that keep them from ever really knowing God. They may know His law, but they don’t know His heart.
Just as there are only two different types of people, there are also two different fears that we are driven by: fear of man, or fear of God. The fear that you are driven by will determine which group you fall into.
Fear of man can be caring about what other people think of you, wanting their approval. It can be fearing them physically, fearing for your life (not as much a reality for many of us in America as it is for our brothers and sisters living in oppressive nations and 3rd world countries). It can be be fearing that the response other people have to you determines your worth: whether that means lording power over others, having people serve you to feel important, controlling other people; or letting them control you, looking, dressing, speaking, acting and living in a way that appeases certain groups or popular culture and opinion.
One of the best ways I have heard the fear of God described is like being in the midst of a dangerous storm or hurricane. If you know Jesus, you have a secure rock fortress keeping you safe from the storm so you don’t have to fear for your life, but you know what the storm is capable of doing. You understand it’s power and are humbled to depend solely on your rock fortress as your security in the midst of it.
Our God is an all consuming fire (Deut. 4:24, Heb. 12:29)
Or William Farley in Gospel Powered Parenting describes it as being like a fear that attracts us to the edge of the Grand canyon. “We are afraid, but the incredible beauty and vastness of the great gulf irresistibly compels us. It puts life in context, and gives us great peace.”
When we fear God, we see our desperate need to be rescued, to be fixed. We call on the Doctor to make us whole. If we don’t see our desperate need to be rescued and fix, we ignore the Doctor, and foolishly lead ourselves to our death.
When we fear man, we depend on ourselves. We either live for ourselves lavishly, recklessly pursuing whatever thrills our hearts please (because we are not afraid of what any “God” is or could do to us); or we live out of the fear of man, wanting people to think highly of us, accept us, or put us in some sort of high standing. We think we do things right, that we are “good” people and we do things to clean up the outside of our lives, ignoring the pure selfishness in our hearts. We don’t cling to the Savior as our fortress, we stand foolishly facing the storm on our own.
Jesus says this: “I tell you, my friends, do not fear those who kill the body, and after that have nothing more that they can do. But I will warn you whom to fear: fear him who, after he has killed, has authority to cast into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear him! Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? And not one of them is forgotten before God. Why, even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not; you are of more value than many sparrows.” (Luke 12:4-7)
Just when I am sneering at those Pharisees and saying, “You tell them Jesus!” I must face the realization that, I too, have Pharisaical tendencies. That humbles me, and I am drawn to the cross.
I must never forget my story of grace, and my constant need for God’s mercies each and every day. And I must sweetly realize that I have no need to “fear man.”
The hairs on my head are numbered, For the love! I am more valuable than many sparrows. You are too, friend. I pray that the truth of that statement from Jesus draws you to the edge of the Grand Canyon. That the beauty and vastness of Jesus would irresistibly compel you. ❤