6 Ways to Guard against Raising Pharisees

Kurt Gebhards warns parents and churches about the danger of raising Pharisees:

Hypocrisy is an imminent and evident threat to the church of Jesus Christ. Churched children are seldom given to outright defiance of authority; they are much more susceptible to the poison of Pharisaism. Hypocrisy in the heart is much more difficult to spot than disobedient behavior.

After describing what hypocrisy and legalism can look like in churched kids, Gebhards shares six ways for parents and churches to guard against raising Pharisees at home and in the church:

  1. We should seize every opportunity to help children understand that it is their hearts that generate their actions (Mt. 15:19) . . . We should never equate occasions of good behavior (professions of love for Jesus, acts of compliance, et cetera) with saving faith in Jesus.
  2. Emphasize the affections of NT religion. Make sure that we are not just aiming at a young person’s understanding, but that we reach for the heart and its affections.
  3. Do not encourage children to exhibit their talents and gifts to impress others. They should be reminded that all that they are and have are gifts of grace from God (1 Cor. 4:7).
  4. Teach the truth about integrity . . . For a child with integrity, whichever way you turn them, they look the same. Who they are at church, is who they are in school, is who they are at home.
  5. Do not be afraid to share our spiritual and moral failures with children in instances where they can identify with our shortcomings. This allows us to be authentic with them. It also allows us to demonstrate our response to God when we have done wrong, and our reliance on Him to continue molding our hearts.
  6. Be authentic in your love for Christ. Genuine desire for Christ is not easily faked. Let your zeal be a barometer by which they measure their own affection for Christ.

Gebhards ends the article with this great reminder from Psalm 78:4-6:

We will not hide them from their children; we will tell the next generation the praiseworthy deeds of the LORD, his power, and the wonders he has done. He decreed statutes for Jacob and established the law in Israel, which he commanded our forefathers to teach their children, so the next generation would know them, even the children yet to be born, and they in turn would tell their children. (Psalm 78:4-6)

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