This week, we've been looking at the multi-dimensional error of the Pharisees, how they were guilty of so many misinterpretations and misdirections at the same time. We've looked at the ways that we are guilty of the same errors. And it can seem like a daunting weight, then - even the kind of weight that the Pharisees themselves were guilty of placing on others - if we say that we must avoid all of these different kinds of errors if we do not want to be Pharisees ourselves.
Yet, it's actually much more simple than that. There is really only one thing that we must keep in mind if we want to avoid becoming Pharisees, and as we said yesterday, it's not so much about what we don't do as what we do.
We must always keep our eyes on the heart of God.
It really is that simple, and it's what the Pharisees could never seem to figure out. They knew all the details, all the rules, all the regulations. They knew how many steps it was from the holy place to the most holy place. They knew how to slaughter an animal for offering and which animals were better than others. They knew everything that you ought to be doing with your life. But what they didn't seem to know anything about was the heart of God.
They didn't know the heart that was behind all the rules and regulations. They didn't know what God was trying to get at when He told us how to live. That's why they focused so much on how we live and not on how to live lives pleasing to God. They focused on behavior because they didn't understand, even after God said it multiple times, that it was never about the offerings. They read the words and studied them, but they entirely missed the inspiration.
It's like sitting down with the manual for a bicycle, trying to put a wagon together. You can't do it. If you're not talking about the same thing, you can't ever get to the same place...or to the place where you're supposed to be. The Pharisees thought the whole point of the Torah was to tell us how to behave, and they completely missed that the whole point of the Scriptures is to reveal to us the heart of God who loves us. They read the words without ever considering the Author.
It's a trap that we can easily fall into ourselves. In fact, we do. All the time. We invest so much of our time and energy trying to get all the details just right, but we've missed out on the love behind them. We've missed out on the heart of God that runs throughout our lives and all creation, that draws us back into Him. We've read the manual that tells us how a faithful life is birthed, but we've never put our ear to His chest to feel the way His heart beats for us.
It's easy to get caught up in all the rules, to work so hard at getting this life 'right,' but God never wanted us to live perfectly; He calls us to live being perfected. He calls us to live in His love, not in His regulations. Let's say this again, just so that we can never forget it - it was never about the animal sacrifices. As the Scriptures themselves say, 'the Lord doesn't need your bull.' What He needs is your heart, and to get you started, He's given you His.
So put your focus there. Look for His heart. Read between the lines and look not just for the Word, but for the Love. Because that's why it was given to us in the first place - not to tell us how to live, but to remind us where our Life is.
If you keep your eyes on His heart, you can't become a Pharisee. You just can't. It's not possible.