Acts 26:5 – “They had previously known me for quite some time, if they were willing to testify, that according to the strictest party of our religion I lived as a Pharisee.”
In Paul’s defense before Agrippa, he makes this statement. What struck me about this verse was the commentary note in my Holman’s Apologetics Bible (would recommend to everyone as a staple for your spiritual repertoire) which said that Paul’s claim was “consistent with Josephus’ description of these groups (Antiquities 18, where he said Pharisees shed themselves of all luxury.)” (emphasis added)
Conceded, the Pharisees had become, in general, a corrupt group of hypocrites, joining those who rejected and murdered God’s prophets. But I simply want to focus on their release “of all luxury”.
The time of Lent is upon us, and though not Catholic, I see the merit in depriving oneself of a luxury for a period of time…if done with the right attitude, or at least done while in pursuit of the right attitude. It utterly baffles me to see people, people who are not even practicing Catholics, “admitting” (or gloating?) that they are observing Lent and how horribly downtrodden and persecuted and pitiable the whole process makes them feel. What possible benefit are they expecting to receive from this? Prestige amongst their friends? The ability to brag that ‘even though it was hard, I accomplished it?’ Sounds awfully… Pharisaic to me.
I am in no way saying that practicing Lent is bad or not beneficial, only that perhaps the motives behind such a practice need to be re-examined. Perhaps for Lent we should give up appearing “sad-faced like the hypocrites. For they make their faces unattractive so their fasting is obvious to people. I assure you: They’ve got their reward!” (Mt. 6:16). Instead, we should replace it with a silent suffering, a contract between you and God, to be fulfilled and honored for His eyes alone, “and your Father who sees in secret will reward you”. (vs. 18b)