We strive to be at the front of the following-Jesus line. Yet the closer we get to the front, the more we’re tempted to compare ourselves with those in the back.  So here’s a brief list of six of the most telling indicators we may have inadvertently started down the road of an Accidental Pharisee, looking down on others and trusting in our own righteousness.

1. Disdain for those at the back of the line

Instead of a Jesus-like compassion for those who can’t keep up, we view them with a deepening sense of frustration, cynicism and a cocky arrogance.

2. A spirit of exclusivity

When thinning the herd becomes more important than expanding the kingdom, or raising the bar becomes more important than helping people climb over it, something has gone terribly wrong.

3. Extra-biblical rules and expectations

Few of us would see ourselves as legalists. We think we’ve moved on from old-school legalism because we no longer judge people by what’s in their refrigerator.

But the spirit of legalism still runs strong. We now judge people by what’s in their driveway and how big their house is.

4. A pattern of idolizing the past

Whether it’s the New Testament church or the scholars of old, we tend to give them a free pass for their failures.

But the present-day bride of Christ and the current crop of leaders whom Jesus has put in place are assailed for their blind spots, failures and feet of clay. Like the Pharisees of old, we rip on the living prophets and then build monuments to them once they die.

5. A quest for clone-like uniformity

Jesus had room for Simon the Zealot and Matthew the Tax Collector.

Yet, sometimes, the more biblically grounded we become, the less room we have for anyone who hasn’t yet learned all we’ve learned. The result is a circle of fellowship that’s tighter than Jesus’ circle of acceptance.

6. Gift projection

“Gift projection” is the toxic belief that my calling is everyone else’s calling. It disfigures the body of Christ by insisting ears become eyes and hands become feet.

It looks like passion for the mission, but, in reality, it’s candy-coated arrogance.

Two roads diverge

The good news is, even if we’ve inadvertently started down the road of an accidental Pharisee, we don’t have to end up there. We can repent, turn around and reset our gaze on Jesus.

(From a longer article by Larry Osborne, author of  Accidental Pharisees, which highlights the warning signs we’ve left the path and turned down a dangerous detour that turns well-intentioned zealots into accidental Pharisees.)