How Big is Your Phylactery?

Mat 23:2 – saying: “The scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat.
Mat 23:3 – “Therefore whatever they tell you to observe, that observe and do, but do not do according to their works; for they say, and do not do.
Mat 23:4 – “For they bind heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on men’s shoulders; but they themselves will not move them with one of their fingers.
Mat 23:5 – “But all their works they do to be seen by men. They make their phylacteries broad and enlarge the borders of their garments.

The Pharisees are mentioned often throughout the New Testament and appear to be the bad guys who were always trying to catch Jesus red handed in some deceptive scheme. They wore on their heads something called a phylactery which was a small black box that contained a parchment inside on which was written passages from the Torah. These passages were probably memorized, thus the bigger your phylactery was the more of God’s Word you memorized. The same goes for the arm-phylactery or arm tefillin which was a leather strap wrapped around the arm and it represented passages from the Torah.

The Problem of Hypocrisy

The problem with the Pharisees was that they memorized and knew so much but actually did so little of it. They were hypocrites that ruled the Jewish people and instructed them on how to best follow the Law yet they themselves did not follow it through completely. Worse than that they missed the point, and ultimately missed their Messiah which was prophesied from the beginning by their own texts.

They probably felt a sense of worth and value when the people looked up to them as more Godly them themselves, heck who doesn’t? I know I’ve felt a sense of pride and satisfaction when people consider me as “doing it right”. But they converted their genuine spirituality in to a physical show, the size of their phylactery, the length of their scripture strap, and the volume of their prayers dictated the level of faith and spirituality. That is the dwelling place of self deceit, false spirituality, and hypocrisy.

Pharisees Today in the Church

This problem of Pharisaical hypocrisy is rampant in the Western Christian culture. I see many Christians who were raised going to church; they know all of the stories, answers, and solutions to life’s problem but they don’t truly live what they claim to believe. These individuals don’t have a relationship with God and underneath the self gratifying religious mask they really just live for themselves. And another group exists that lacked the Christian childhood or education yet they have “come to Christ” in more recent years and play the part well. They of course believe they are going to heaven, claim the title of Christian and know a few religious answers. Yet they too know and don’t do. Another way to put it is they think but don’t have. Both groups have enough Christianity in their lives to make them self feel good about their life and spirituality. But they don’t have enough Christ in them to pass for a true follower of Christ.

It’s not enough to have a religion about God, it’s having a relationship with God that counts in this life and the next.

Mat 5:20 – “For I say to you, that unless your righteousness exceeds the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven.

So are you one of these people? Test yourself by comparing your Christianity to the religiousness of the Pharisees of Jesus’ time:

  • The Pharisees loved to be known publicly for their spirituality and discipline.
    (Matthew 6:5-6)
  • The Pharisees were clean on the outside but were secretly full of injustice and evil on the inside.
    (Matthew 23:25-28)
  • The Pharisees cared more about peoples sins than their repentance and worship of Jesus.
    (Luke 7:39)
  • The Pharisees focused more on their own righteous accomplishments and status than their sin and need for God.
    (Luke 18:11-13)
  • The Pharisees focused on peoples status more then loving them.
    (Matthew 9:11-13)
  • The Pharisees accused Jesus of working Satanically because they could not equal or duplicate His works.
    (Matthew 12:24-28)
  • The Pharisees asked to see a miraculous sign from Jesus though they had likely seen many and still did not believe.
    (Matthew 12:38-39)
  • The Pharisees paid attention to rules pertaining to the outward being but ignored deeper things like honoring ones parents.
    (Matthew 15:1-9)

Compare yourself with the above statements and challenge yourself to become truer and purer in your relationship with God. Knowing about God isn’t enough. Looking good to others and fooling your pastors isn’t enough.

Jam 1:22 – But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.


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