There is a natural tendency for us to be less forgiving and more critical of others for the same offenses we ourselves are guilty of. We see our intentions and motives as being sincere and upright while looking for the hidden agendas in others. It is very easy for us to see the sin and faults in others, yet look past the glaring inconsistencies in our own lives. This tendency becomes more troubling when it makes its way into our spiritual lives. Understanding and dealing with this tendency is the subject of Larry Osborne’s new book “ Accidental Pharisees; Avoiding Pride, Exclusivity, and the Other Dangers of Overzealous Faith.” Osborne takes the reader back to the New Testament and examines the Pharisees. The Pharisees were the main religious leader of Jesus’ day. They were looked upon highly by the people of the day as being models of devotion to God, spiritual passion, and commitment to the spiritual disciplines of prayer, fasting, and giving. By others, they were seen as “hypocritical, narrow-minded, and puffed-up” according to Osborne.
Osborne makes the case that there is a sense of “over-zealousness” in the modern church today. Christians are adopting this sense and spirit of “pharisaism” more and more, albeit by accident. Osborne writes that the essence of the accidental Pharisee is simply “extra”. At times, well meaning Christians make up extra-biblical rules to make sure everyone stays inside the fences they believe are necessary. Many well meaning Christians require extra-biblical behavior (usually restrictive) to ensure everyone looks and acts the same. After all, the accidental Pharisee, whether he/she realizes it or not, wants everyone to look, act, and sound just like them. Osborne does a very good job of describing how the journey towards an accidental Pharisee happens. He says that usually some event takes place in a person’s life (speaker, conference, book, etc) that challenges the believer to step out in faith. As the individual presses forward, they discover that not everyone is running at the same speed, or may be lagging behind. At this point, as Osborne writes, something critical happens, “If you allow your frustration to turn into disgust and disdain for people you’ve left behind, you’ll end up on a dangerous detour. Instead of becoming more like Jesus, you’ll become more like his archenemies, the Pharisees of old, looking down on others, confident in your own righteousness.”
Accidental Pharisees has seven divisions. These divisions paint a picture of the dangers of pharisaism by detailing its characteristics. In part one, Osborne deals with the characteristics of our own pharisaism. In part two, “Pride”, Osborne describes the sin of pride and how it causes us to look at others. In part three, “Exclusivity”, Osborne shows how the Pharisees wanted to raise the bar to keep others out and how we should resist the urge to “thin the herd”. In part four, “Legalism”, he talks about how unreasonable litmus tests are used to ensure people are “true” Christians. In part five, “Idolizing the Past”, we learn how idealism can distort true reality. In part six, “The Quest for Uniformity”, Osborn writes that uniformity is not unity and a quest for everyone to be just like us is not healthy. Finally in part seven, “Gift Projection”, he shows how gifts can become the basis for comparison.
Osborne has a winner here. This is a great book. Accidental Pharisees would serve new believers and experienced believers well in order to know the trappings of pharisaism and how to avoid it. Very well written on a very important topic.
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Cross Focused Reviews as part of their Blogger Review Program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”