What’s So Bad About The Pharisees?

Were The Pharisees Condemned For Being Too Righteous?

Some would say that Jesus condemned them because they obeyed the Law of God too strictly or too closely. But where does Jesus ever say that? Where does God ever condemn people for being too good? What verse leads us to believe that obedience is a bad thing? When did God say to the Pharisees, “Hey! Loosen up, guys. If you keep taking my words so seriously you’re going to end up lost”? So what are the reasons that are actually given in the Bible for their condemnation?

They were condemned for blatant hypocrisy (Matthew 23:3).

They placed their human traditions and customs ahead of scriptures, in violation of them (Matthew 15:3).

They were self-righteous (Luke 18:9).

They served God for human praise and recognition (Matthew 6:1).

They were condemned for a failure to recognize truth (Matthew 21:27).

Pharisees wielded their power to hinder the faith of others (John 12:42).

Far from being condemned for obeying the Law too closely, they were actually called by Jesus for not obeying the Law correctly. A part of His condemnation was due to the fact that they chose to ignore certain areas of the Law (justice, mercy, and faith in Matthew 23:23). Jesus considered every part of the Law to be important, even tithing.


“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites!” (Matthew 23:25). The word “hypocrite” is so very appropriate to the context. “Hupokrites primarily denotes one who answers; then, a stage actor; it was a custom for Greek and Roman actors to speak in large masks with mechanical devices for augmenting the force of the voice” (Vine’s Dictionary of New Testament Words, 242). The accusation made by Jesus, then, would be that the Pharisees are more like actors than anything else. They wear a mask around other people, but that mask only serves to keep hidden the truth about their motives, desires, and priorities. What kind of masks do we wear? Would Jesus accuse us of being actors in the religious world? Unfortunately, so many who claim to belong to Christ only put on the mask of the truth, but inwardly are just like any unbeliever. After all, a sign out front with Jesus Christ’s name on it doesn’t mean much if what’s happening inside is falsehood. “For you clean the outside of the cup, and of the dish, but inside they are full of robbery and self-indulgence.” A shiny, clean car with a coat of wax is worthless to the driver if he has not changed the oil in twenty thousand miles!