There are so many hazards to parenting in today’s world. “It’s a hard world to raise a child in,” some people say. Yes, that is true. But let me remind you that it has always been that way. It was a hard world to raise a child in even for Adam and Eve, if you remember. They were not even a generation removed from perfection and murder had already entered their family. The reason for this is that the greatest threat to raising children for God is not found in the world. It is found in the human heart.
Therefore, my goal is to convince you from God’s Word that your child’s greatest need is one that you cannot provide. And my goal is to warn you of the greatest hazard in Christian parenting—the hypocrisy of Pharisaism: maintaining an outward form of godliness that lacks inner spiritual power.
If we as parents are hypocritical Pharisees then we will have no trouble reproducing ourselves in our children. But if we are living each day dependent on the saving and sanctifying grace of God for our own souls then, by God’s good pleasure, we will pass on to the next generation a faith that is real, genuine, not counterfeit. A faith that is living, powerful, and authentic.
We need to realize that the Pharisees were very effective at reproducing themselves. They had many followers, many disciples, many spiritual children. Jesus warned in Matthew 23:15, “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, because you travel around on sea and land to make one proselyte; and when he becomes one, you make him twice as much a son of hell as yourselves.”
The Pharisees had their beginnings around 130 BC, probably successors of the Hasidim (pious ones) who stuck to the Law during the reign of the wicked king Antiochus Epiphanes. The Pharisees did their best to hold true to the OT Law as well as their own traditions. They were moral, self-denying, zealous, and self-righteous people. As to their beliefs, they were rigid legalists. As the years went by, they became dead orthodox and added to the Bible their own laws and oral traditions (adding upward to 1500 laws). Two notable Pharisees are Nicodemus (who appears to have come to faith in Christ sometime after Jesus’s evening encounter with him, John 19:39) and the Apostle Paul before his conversion (Phil. 3:5).
In this blog post let me unfold for you a brief outline of a passage of Scripture that is essential for us to understand as parents. If we are going to be used of the Lord to lead others to experience true heart-change, which of course includes our own children, then we must come to grips with what Jesus teaches in Mark 7:1-23. It is my hope that you will take this bare outline and use it to meditate more fully on this important text.
To begin, notice two deadly perils of Pharisaism.
1. Pharisaism Exalts Man’s Opinion above God’s Mind and thus Invalidates the Scriptures (vv. 1-13)
In this portion of the text, the Pharisees come to Jesus with an observation and a question. Having observed that Jesus’s disciples did not ceremonially wash their hands, they asked Jesus why they transgressed the tradition of the elders. Violation of God’s laws was not their concern, only the neglect of their own.
Jesus corrects them by applying God’s rebuke through Isaiah, “This people honors Me with their lips, but their heart is far away from Me. But in vain do they worship Me, teaching as doctrines the precepts of men.”
His strong rebuke is then followed by a specific example of how aptly they did an end-run around God’s command to honor their parents in order to keep material possessions for themselves. As a result, they invalidated (cancelled, overturned, undermined) the very Word of God.
Consider a second peril of Pharisaism:
2. Pharisaism Misdiagnoses and Mistreats the Root Problem and thus Minimizes the Gospel (vv. 14-23)
- The root problem is not outside of man—dirty hands, unclean food, etc. (vv. 14-19)
Jesus makes it clear that food cannot sanctify a person because it bypasses the heart (control center of man, Prov. 4:23) and goes straight to the stomach and is eliminated. Mark it down: good food may make you healthy, but it will not make you holy. The problem of sinful behavior is much deeper than our diet.
- The root problem is inside of man—the depraved heart of the sinner and its rotten fruit (vv. 20-23)
Instead of focusing on what we put into our stomachs (as valuable that may be as we strive to be good stewards of our bodies), our attention should be given to the transformation of the heart—a work only the Holy Spirit can accomplish by means of the new birth brought about by the instrumental cause of the gospel (Rom. 1:16) and the sanctification that He specializes in as we grow in the grace and knowledge of Christ by walking in submission to His inspired Word, the Scriptures (2 Pet. 1:2-7).
In my next post, we will apply the perils of Pharisaism more specifically.