~Then Jesus said to them, "Take heed and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and the Sadducees." Matthew 16:6
I must confess that I find myself increasingly less interested in the sectarianism that seems to rule our contemporary society. Not just secular partisanship, but sectarianism in the church as well. All my life I have been a person who has never been one to get excited about movements or social pressures. Each time I have dabbled with a movement or been enticed by something that appears interesting and hopeful, I have been disappointed at the contrast between the ideals and the reality. All this to say that I am something of an outsider and my initial response to that is guilt. However, when I consider the Scriptures and especially the depth of the above verse, I am pulled from guilt and encouraged to find that my Lord and His disciples were much the same. The Lord Jesus is essentially saying to beware of the infectious influence of movements and ideals with agendas that draw you away from Christ, His Word, and His Kingdom.
Beware the influence of the Pharisees. No short paragraph can capture the Pharisees accurately, but suffice to say their focus was on an external obedience, not only to the Scriptures, but also to what human authorities had added to God's Word. Their moralism was an infection that displayed the symptoms of self righteousness, pride, arrogance, and fear of the loss of power and status. Their thoughts and actions were consumed with the physical external state of their nation and its outward practices. When presented with God manifest in the flesh, their true prophesied Messiah, he was unrecognizable, unwanted, and had to be stopped. Our church should never be so afraid of loss and so consumed with appearance that we neglect the heart. Nor should we be so obsessed with getting things right out of our own pride that we forget our total inability and need for a savior. If certain man made traditions and laws in our culture have a higher place in our estimation than the Gospel that we would compromise that Gospel and God's Law, we have veered and been influenced by the leaven of the Pharisees.
Beware the influence of the Sadducees. The Sadducees likewise were a group focused on externals. The political and social progress of their nation state was their religion. While the Pharisees ultimately thought they were pleasing God and earning his favor in a spiritual afterlife with a concept of future resurrection, the Sadducees were even more obtuse. Theirs was a narrow view on the here and now, not the hereafter. Whatever it took to keep material status and success is the meaning of life. It was fine to embrace Herod and work with the Romans as long as materialism was gained. God's Word was a fine guideline but much of it was doubtful and irrelevant to them. A humble non political savior who spoke of another world, of dying to self, keeping Caesar and God separate, and putting others good first was problematic and counterproductive. He had to be stopped. Our church should never care more about action and influence than about eternal life. If social progress, quality of life, and government strength are more important than faithfulness and obedience to an invisible kingdom and God's Word, we are influenced by the leaven of the Sadducees.
Ultimately these two opposing factions were not as different as they claimed. They had different methods, but were both man made man centered power hungry factions. God's people are not to be sucked up into these ways of life. We are to come out from among them and remain separate. to keep in the middle of the straight and narrow path that leads unto life. Pharisees and Saducees hated each other, but they unified against the Lord Jesus and against His apostles and disciples. Their world was not to be messed with. Are you messing with the world of Pharisees and Sadducees or are you sympathetic to one over the other? Both sides will reject you Christian, but both sides are of no eternal consequence. Your master and Savior has given you a better way. Its not popular and its unceremonious with no material reward but it is the way, the truth, and the life. Beware the leaven, eat the bread of life, lean wholly on Christ alone. Look to Him and live for His eternal transcendent Kingdom.