Jesus made miracles out of mudpies (John 9:1-12) and the man born blind can now see. His troubles are over, right? Nope—the marginalized man who so recently was blind now has a run in with the spiritual authorities. The Pharisees are in a place of spiritual power over the people. They are in fact the very ones who have cultivated a culture that marginalized the man born blind in the first place. The Pharisees, like them or not, are very good at what they do. What do they do? It hardly defines them to say they are “Pharisaical” does it? But your name doesn’t become synonymous with hypocrisy for no reason. You might say that the Pharisees are experts at the timeless tradition of being “holier than thou.”
How does one become holier than thou? Suspend some disbelief with me if you will and follow along as I offer how to become holier than thou in ten easy steps. Consider the Pharisees to be our expert outside consultants who, like executive coaches, are going to show each of us how it’s done. Here we go:
Like many people you would like for others to be impressed with you and admire your spiritual life. The Holy Roller Pharisee Consultancy will deploy their “PhariCoaches” (trademark pending) to show you how to be holier than thou so that people will be impressed by you and cower in the long shadow of your holiness.
1) Major on the minors*
The first path to being holier than thou that our expert PhariCoaches would guide us in is to major on the minors. The major facts in John 9 are: the man was born blind and then Jesus healed him… case closed. But the Pharisees know this ragamuffin from Galilee threatens them and they need to find a way to call him out. It’s a good thing they have spent hundreds of years coming up with extra-biblical commands so they can major on the minors in this case. They found their ally in the Sabbath, as they often did. Jesus was always healing people on the Sabbath, as though it was made as a gift for man or something (Mark 2:27). The scriptures clearly said that you could not work on the Sabbath; so spitting on a rock was fine, but spitting in mud was work, because mud was mortar, and making mortar was work. (Seriously, this stuff holds up in Pharisee court, so learn the technicalities!) This infraction was enough to put the whole case on trial in at least the court of public opinion, so “some of the Pharisees said, ‘This man is not from God, for he does not keep the Sabbath.’” (John 9:16)
If you want to be holier than thou, it is critical to be perpetually divided. Our experts from the Holy Roller Pharisee Consultancy instinctively knew this, and argued at every turn. When the case of the man born blind came up, the Pharisees immediately began to debate things. “But others asked, “How can a sinner perform such signs?’ So they were divided.” (v16) Unity is an enemy of pride. If we are all unified around a singular identity and service to God then how can we act like we are better than anyone else? We have to combat the unifying tendency to aim at higher values, and instead major on the minors as point one suggests. Our ideas are in constant competition with other people’s ideas, so if we want to be holier than thou, we have to be like the Pharisees and argue from the moment any possible movement of God rears its head.[divider type=”dots”]
*Just in case it’s not obvious, this entire piece is satirical and perhaps inexcusably sarcastic. But maybe our Pharisaical ways need a little poking fun at from time to time, eh?