I Became a Bible-Reading-Routine Pharisee & How to Avoid My Mistake

I wore my devotional diligence as a badge of honor, but it was actually a Pharisaical robe. When I learned what true righteousness looks like, things changed.

I won’t shy away from the hideous truth. After I developed a diligent Bible reading routine, I puffed up with pride and became like the Pharisee in Luke 18—self-righteous and condescending toward anyone who didn’t read the Bible daily like me.

God, I thank You that I’m not like other people—lazy, indifferent, or ungrateful for the power of Your Word. I study the Bible every single day! I’m so much better than they are!

I’d never pray something like that out loud, of course, but I had instituted my own law of righteousness—a supposed formula for “being a good Christian”. My thinking leaned toward legalism. I seemed to believe my consistent, regular time of personal devotions justified me before God. 

Maybe you’ve never worn your devotional diligence as a badge of honor like I did, but have you treated daily Bible reading like the key indicator of spiritual health? Have you felt crushed by guilt, believing you’ve failed on days when you didn’t “do devotions”?

The Litmus Test for Righteous Living

Merely checking the box of the “Bible reading” task on our daily to-do list misses the mark of godliness. The Bible provides the litmus test and sets the standard for righteousness, and the standard is high. Jesus said, “For I tell you, unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:20 ESV). 

The scribes and Pharisees were the supreme rule-followers of the day. They obsessed about every jot and tittle of God’s law, striving to achieve absolute perfection. Yet Jesus said we must be even more righteous than they? How is that possible?

God is concerned more with our hearts than outward appearances—because He wants relationships, not robots. The Pharisees may have appeared righteous on the outside, but their hearts were far from God (Matthew 15:8-9). 

When one of the Pharisees asked Jesus what the greatest commandment is, He said it’s to love God and love our neighbor (Matthew 22:37-40, Deuteronomy 6:5, Leviticus 19:18). To His disciples, Jesus said, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments” (John 14:15 ESV).

James exhorts us to “be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves” (James 1:22 ESV). Yes, God wants us to read and study the Bible, but we’re called to actually live according to it (1 John 2:6, 1 Corinthians 11:1, Ephesians 5:1).

When we examine our hearts against the plumb line of God’s Word (Amos 7:7-8), it’s almost impossible to become prideful and self-righteous. None of us are capable of living in perfect obedience to God’s Word every moment of every day.

A New Perspective on Daily Devotions

When I realized I was missing the mark by being more focused on reading the Bible than obeying it, I repented of my self-righteousness and legalism, shed my Pharisaical robes, and began to look at God’s Word through the lens of humility. 

I’ve since encountered many godly women whose personal devotions are inconsistent, yet their righteousness—demonstrated through extravagant love for God and gracious love for others—far exceeds my own. 

A daily routine of Bible reading and study is a good thing—something every follower of Jesus Christ can benefit from. I will always encourage you to get into God’s Word. 

Instead of asking “Did I read the Bible today?” let’s ask ourselves, “Am I obeying God’s Word today by loving Him and loving others well?” Instead of measuring our own faithfulness by a self-imposed law requiring devotional perfection, let’s examine our hearts in light of God’s Word and seek to live it out. 

See also: Giving Up My Bible Reading Plan Helped Me Delight in God’s WordBecoming a Doer of God’s Word, and Reagan Rose’s Flaunting Your Faithfulness: The Dangers of Conspicuous Christianity.

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