I really like how Tim Chester explains Pharisaical behaviour in A Meal with Jesus (highly recommended for anyone who enjoys mealtimes) — what he terms “bourgeois spirituality” (page 22), attainable only by those with the time and money to pursue lofty standards. Expecting folks to dress ‘decently’, behave ‘properly’, learn ‘well’ and observe social ‘courtesies’ (say, punctuality) is a form of exclusion before embrace. Regarding full-time ministry as the acme of godliness is another.
Moreover, just like how churches might bleat against abortions but condemn unwed, teenage mothers rather than commit to supporting them, Pharisees today are wont to preach from afar:
Perhaps through displays of learning or rhetoric that make the non-literate feel that they can’t read the Bible for themselves.
Perhaps through application that focuses on externals and leaves hearts unchanged.
Perhaps by applying the text to dodgy charismatics or Catholics or dispensationalists or fundamentalists or liberals or pagans — anyone but themselves.
Perhaps by reading the BIble through theological grids so we say what the text does not say rather than what it does say.
Perhaps by emphasising knowledge but not obedience or love. (pages 23–24)
I am warned, and am convicted of the times I’ve kept silent not out of compassion but fear, or neglected to work harder and suss out the cracks in prevailing patterns of thought. I think we veer close to being false prophets more often than we suspect; I know I myself have been in danger and violation of many millstone-heavy errors. Thank God for his scandalous grace, which is always enough, and the Holy Spirit, who indwells in all believers.