This morning finds us at the fifth and final seminar. I have chosen to attend one led by Carey Hardy, which he has entitled How to Raise a Pharisee: Avoiding legalism in the home.’ Carey is senior executive pastor at Grace Church and an adjunct professor at The Master’s College and Seminary.
The pharisees were the original legalists. ‘Pharisees’ means ‘separated ones’ and this is something in which they took great pride. They separated themselves both literally and figuratively and really did believe that their priorities were close to the heart of God. They desired to live out God’s Word, protect it and propagate it. They desperately wanted to protect God’s Word and did this by adding to it and building fences about it. These ‘helpful additions’ soon became absolutely essential so that God’s laws were no longer enough. They developed another 365 rules that were passed orally from generation to generation. This law eventually became more important to them than the Law of God.
We have pharisees today. There are some who add their own rules and regulations and come to believe that these are equal to the Word of God. Legalists take away personal responsibility for thinking and living by conscience. They create rules and then judge themselves and others by them. Jesus described these men as yeast and leaven, because the yeast of the pharisees was hypocrisy. There was confusion that they caused among the people about what God wanted and expected. It is just as easy for a believer today to be confused by these spreading gangrene of legalism.
There is not a problem in traditions or local distinctions. But there is something wrong when we present personal preferences as eternal truth. So we have the pharisees who are judgmental, prideful and hypocritical.
Hardy has taken notice of practices that, if practiced, will produce pharisees. This is a twelve-step program to increase the probability of raising a pharisee. They all relate to one another and sometimes the line of distinction is not entirely clear.
- Majoring on external instead of internal issues: The Jews were thinking externally about the Law of God and Christ began to change their thinking to show that God is interested in the heart – in the inside. Parents need to avoid focusing only on the external without providing biblical exhortation and foundation. Adherence to external regulations in the home cannot be equated with a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ. Parents can be deluded into thinking their children are saved simply by seeing external conformity in their lives. Apparent change on the outside does not necessarily indicate true, lasting internal change.
- Excessive control: This points to the lack of balance between discipline and instruction. There may be too many rules or restrictions or rules that are pointless, harsh, too strict. ‘There are some parents who are walking minus signs.’ This involves excessive control in attempting to micro-manage a family, telling a child everything he can and cannot do. We need to find ways of saying ‘yes’ to our children and allowing them to pursue their dreams and interests. Enter into their world and don’t be so quick to point out how impossible or illogical something is. ‘Make your first response positive.’ Be known as somebody who will listen and this means you need to think long-term. Fads come and go, so don’t get too concerned about every fad that comes and go with your child. Many parents become overly controlling on issues of preference and then never allow their children to make decisions on their own.
- Over-reacting to failure: That includes not allowing the freedom to fail. You’re treating failure as if it’s the end of the world. Maximizing instead of minimizing it. Failure is an amazing opportunity for teaching. It is the children’s failures that provide the best opportunities to share the gospel and provide the most teachable moments. Over-reacting to failure is performance-based love. Perfectionism – expecting perfection from our children – is not a good thing. It is not the same as the pursuit of excellence.
- Being unforgiving: This is that grouchy, irritable parent, frustrated over everything that goes wrong, who creates an oppressive, negative atmosphere in the home. There is no visible end to the consequences for sinful choices. Sin must be dealt with, but there has to be an end to the consequences. An unforgiving parent does not want to end the consequences but wants to remain grumpy and mean. ‘Deal with the issue, and be over it.’ We have to teach what forgiveness looks like. The home is where encouragement and support needs to flourish. If you refuse to forgive your children, you are teaching them to be unforgiving.
- Elevating preference over biblical principles: Some parents may emphasize personal preferences over what the Bible clearly teaches. A child is expected to obey a house rule (for example, when a child is to do homework or when he may have a snack), but these are not to be confused with Scriptural truth. We need rules based on preference, but do not try to make your child believe that these are biblical rules. Admit that we are doing these things because this is the way dad and mom want to do it.
- Unnecessary separatism: This has become a huge problem with many homeschooling families. Hardy homeschooled his children when they were young, so he loves and affirms homeschooling. But he dislikes when some people attempt to make a biblical case for homeschooling but there is not one. What he has seen is some families pulling away from other families because the parents do not want their children associating with children who are not homeschooling. But separatism is no guarantee that children will grow to respect their parents or love the Lord. Children must be involved with other children for this is important to their development. Parents need to exercise some care and discernment in allowing their children to be around others, but it is important that they learn how to relate to other children. We must also be careful to interact with people within our neighborhoods and make sure that we are not so separatistic that we ignore the mission fields in our own neighborhoods.
- Judging others: (especially other families). Be judgmental about the things that are going on at church: roast a pastor for Sunday lunch. A constant rain of criticism will develop a judgmental spirit in them. You usually judge others by your personal convictions and preferences rather than Scripture.
- Being a fighter (or being belligerent): To this kind of parent, every issue is a fighting issue. Every issue is worth fighting for in church, home and the world. Kids are taught what to fight against, but not what they fight for. They are known for being only negative.
- Showing favoritism: (of one child or another child). It shows that a parent only likes to spend time with people who are like them. These leads back to separatism. When you prefer one child over another, you harm them both.
- No humor: You could also say, ‘no fun.’ A parent needs to know how not to take himself so seriously, and sometimes not to take things in the world so seriously. ‘Let your hair down.’ We need to teach our children to have a good sense of humor, but not crass humor. We need to make the home a place that is fun and where the children like to be.
- Building up their self-esteem: Nowhere in the Bible do you find the issue of self-esteem which is a worldly, psychological concept. Nowhere are you taught to love yourself. Our problem is that we love ourselves too much! This encourages children to focus on self and to build-up self. In encourages selfishness. We also need to avoid modeling a self-focus and we may do this by believing that our children exist primarily to make us happy. Finally, don’t use your child to bring glory to yourself.
- A lack of genuine spirituality yourself: Living hypocritically teaches hypocrisy. There has to be some level of pursuing Christ that they see in the parents. Our children should see us reading the Bible and praying in our quiet times. They should see and know the genuineness of our faith. Legalism in your life is a cheap substitute for spirituality
As a final exhortation, Hardy challenged us to keep parenting simple. Discipline children when they disobey and give them lots of love. Live life with and before your children.