How to Raise a Pharisee in 12 Easy Steps

This article was originally posted at my site. I’m married with three children, an SBC pastor, a PhD student at SBTS, and an average Southern Baptist. I’ve authored two books. You can connect with me on Twitter, Facebook, Google+, and YouTube.


Carey Hardy offers some practical advice for Christians seeking to be biblical parents. Brief excerpts of his 12 steps for raising a Pharisee are provided here, but you can read the full length article by following the link at the end of this summary.

Here are 12 easy steps for raising your children to become Pharisees:

1. Major on external instead of internal issues.

See the Sermon on the Mount (Matt. 5–6).  This is majoring on controlling the child’s behavior without using Scripture and prayer to deal with his heart.

2. Exercise excessive control.

This is not balancing discipline with instruction.  This is manifested by the creation of TOO MANY rules and restrictions, rules that are POINTLESS, or rules that are HARSH AND TOO STRICT.

3. Overreact to failure.

This includes not allowing the freedom to fail. It’s treating failure as the end of the world. You must see failure as an opportunity for instruction. But many parents live in FEAR of failure—and thus they become excessive controllers. This may be manifested in calling attention to every mistake. It’s a performance-based love…expecting perfection.

4. Be unforgiving and impatient.

A grouchy/irritable parent, frustrated over everything that goes wrong.  Instead of a home that is filled with joy, there is an oppressive, negative atmosphere. Sinful choices by your children definitely need to be dealt with. But make sure there is a visible end to the consequences, with the home thus returning to a pleasant atmosphere of peace and tranquility.

5. Elevate preference over biblical principle.

Some parents are prone to emphasize rules that really don’t reflect the Bible at all. Instead, the rules reflect personal preferences.

6. Exercise unnecessary separatism.

This has become a huge problem with many home-schooling families. I believe it’s danger they must watch out for.  Frankly, this approach doesn’t work as the parents think it will. Frequent phone calls from parents of older children who are rebelling. And frequent discussions with pastors who are having this problem in their church.  As your children grow, they must be involved with other children; this is a testing ground and provides opportunities for training. And your teens must be allowed to be with other teens.

7. Judge others…other families.

This is being judgmental about other families, about things going on in the church; being critical of everything, constantly fault-finding, producing a constant rain of criticism.  When you do this in front of children, you’re developing that judgmental spirit in them.

8. Be “belligerent”—a fighter.

Pharisees fight. So, to this parent, every issue is a fighting issue.  As the child watches you take on every wrong thing in the church, every example of wrong thinking in others, they learn the lifestyle of a fighter.  Thus, they end up learning what to fight against and not necessarily what to fight for.

9. Show favoritism.

By this, I mean showing favoritism toward one child over another child.  This teaches a child to want to be only with people who are like you and who meet your standards. Then this can lead to the separatism we discussed earlier.

10. Exercise no humor.

No fun.  You need to know how to not take yourself so seriously and how to not take things in this world so seriously at times.

11. Build up their self-esteem.

A “high self-esteem” is not a biblical concept. Nor is the need to learn to love yourself.  Emphasis on self-esteem encourages individuals to become like Pharisees; they are encouraged to delve into self, to be focused on self, to build up self.

12. Lack genuine spirituality.

Living hypocritically teaches hypocrisy.  You won’t be perfect as a parent, but there must be a level of integrity visible to your children.

You can find Hardy’s Scriptural and practical reasoning for the above points here.

What are your thoughts about Hardy’s points?

This article was originally posted at my site. I’m married with three children, an SBC pastor, a PhD student at SBTS, and an average Southern Baptist. I’ve authored two books. You can connect with me on Twitter, Facebook, Google+, and YouTube.


  1. says

    I think it’s even easier than that (to raise a Pharisee).

    Preach and teach God’s law in a manner to make your child a better Christian.

    Water it down enough to make it manageable. To make it so they will actually think that they can do it (keep the law).

    You will end up with a person who actually believes that they are doing a pretty good job at being “obedient”. They will become prideful.

    Either that, or they will become despairing (if they are truly honest with themselves)…and throw the whole thing overboard.

  2. cb scott says

    Why don’t you just rear masculine, Christian men and just let the devil take the hindmost parts with rearing panty-waisted, sissy Pharisees?

    • cb scott says

      BTW, you “raise” goats, pigs, chickens, cattle, and horses and such.

      You “rear” children.

      • cb scott says

        You can also “raise” a barn. If you raise a barn, you can teach the children your “rear” to “raise” goats, pigs, chickens, cattle, and horses and such in it.

          • cb scott says

            Jared Moore,

            If you do put me in moderation, will you please feed the goats, pigs, chickens, cattle, and horses I am “raising” in the barn, and ask Dave miller to go my bail/

          • cb scott says

            Hay, corn, sweet feed and such. Of course the pigs will eat most anything. . . which reminds me; I think one of the best days I ever had was the day the pigs ate my little brother.

          • Dale Pugh says

            True story:
            A man in our community was recently discovered lying in the middle of a wooded area. He was beaten, stripped of his clothing, and left for dead. The guys who did it were counting on the wild hogs eating his body. He barely survived and is currently in a coma in the hospital. The horrible reality is that people actually think like that. Talk about your total depravity.

  3. Bruce H. says

    It is easy for 4 or more people to set a standard and see others missing it miserably and complaining about it. The thing is, we can agree that sin is sin, but we cannot judge it by our standard, we must judge it by God’s standard; Love, mercy, patience, gentleness, kindness, compassion, grace….. Regardless, we must judge it by God’s standard and we cannot be idle.

    “Therefore you are inexcusable, O man, whoever you are who judge, for in whatever you judge another you condemn yourself; for you who judge practice the same things. But we know that the judgment of God is according to truth against those who practice such things. And do you think this, O man, you who judge those practicing such things, and doing the same, that you will escape the judgment of God?” Romans 2:1-3 ff

    We seem to know the sins of others, and they are sins, but we know them because we have enjoyed them as well.

    Good Post.

    • cb scott says

      Is that always the case, Bruce H.?

      Do we always know the sins of others because we have enjoyed the same sin so well?

      • Bruce H. says

        First, I believe scripture to be true. I know the sins of others, like you, because of my previous sins. It is how I address it. Humility, because I have repented, or for pride because I know you have done the same thing I have done and condemn you. Second, the person would have wisdom from a life committed to righteousness and free of the sin, allowing the Holy Spirit to reveal it, to address it like Jesus would. Either of judgement or grace. Either way, we are committed to each other to address the sin like you did me.

        • cb scott says

          Bruce H.,

          Obviously, you are missing my point. The question was based on your comment alone.

          I don’t think we always know the sins of others because we have committed the same sin. Some sins we know simply because the Scripture reveals certain actions, attitudes, and traits to be sin. Recognition of such does not constitute previous participation in the same sin.

          However, we are all very accomplished sinners before a just and righteous God. Therefore, it is a good thing for us that the blood-bought grace of Christ is sufficient to save us if we repent and believe the biblical gospel.

          • Bruce H. says

            In my original comment I was talking about a Pharisee. I have never been a Pharisee from a religious standpoint, but I have been a legalistic Christian. I just used the scripture that states what both Pharisees and legalistic Christians do. They set the rules and do the same thing they judge about others.

            The difference in our judgement toward others is this: I know a smoker’s cough when I hear one. I know their habits, too. The difference between the Pharisee and the true Christian is that only one has compassion for the smoker.

            I understand what you are saying and agree. I just repeated what Paul said and he didn’t go any further in detail than I did.

  4. Dale Pugh says

    So what he’s saying is that Pharisees beget Pharisees. That’s sad. You see?

  5. Jess Alford says


    I’ve pastored a couple of churches that was ruled by Pharisees. I never want to do it again. What about you?

    • Dale Pugh says

      I’ve been blessed by not having to deal with very much of that, Jess. Only a couple of people through the years have acted that way. I thank God that other Christlike people stepped up and confronted it before it became an big issue. I have seen it happen though, and it grieves me when it rears it’s ugly head.

        • Dale Pugh says

          I’m not sure I’m understanding your question, Bruce. Are you asking how I would deal with it if my wife and kids were the Pharisees? That would be a tough one, for sure.

          • Bruce H. says

            Sorry, Dale. I clicked on the wrong reply. Meant it for Jess.

            To your question though, I think a bossy domineering wife could be Pharisaical and develop that in her children. (shrug ?)

          • Bruce H. says

            I think there are many ways a wife, and maybe the kids, can get that way.

            1. Unforgiving toward her husband.
            2. She may be virtuous and see her husband as lazy.
            3. She may be living a false humility.

            I think either spouse has the ability to become judgmental.

  6. Jess Alford says


    I’m not sure who you were talking to, but I will tell you what I did.
    Figure out who the one or two top ranking Pharisees are, these are the ones that require your attention. Buddy up with them, because you will need them as you try to be the most effective pastor possible.

    Spend a little one on one time with these men, commenting on what they think their good points are. Win them over with your wonderful personality. I believe you get my point. Ones wife and kids are targets
    in this process so they need to be careful.

    • Bruce H. says

      Apparently, I didn’t know who I was talking to either. Sorry.

      I agree with your approach. One verse comes to mind: “Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves. Therefore be wise as serpents and harmless as doves.” Matthew 10:16

      A Pharisee is like an attorney. They think differently and can ruin you in a heartbeat.

  7. Louis says


    Great post.

    My problem is that I am enough of a Pharisee myself to not transmit it unknowingly.

    The other thing that makes this tough is that whole we all agree with your points, we often disagree with the application. One man’s preference is another man’s biblical conviction.

    Case in point – alcohol.

    A person who believes abstinence to be the true Christian position is going to look at the issue differently from someone who believes moderate consumption is the biblical position.

    But still an interesting post.

    • says


      There are differences among good Christians about what is acceptable conduct. My view would be that anything the Scriptures have not forbidden is acceptable. It is tough to have a “biblical conviction” on practices the Bible hasn’t forbidden. There are other Christians who have scruples about such issues. As you know, Paul refers to these as “weaker brothers” not because they are weaker spiritually but because their consciouses are weaker. The duty of the “strong” brother is to refrain from counting such brothers as nincompoops. Perhaps, to refrain from calling them “Pharisees.” The duty of the weaker brother is to refrain from judging the brother who allows such things.

      I think it is important to remember that Pharisees were the good guys when they began as a religious party. They were the religious conservatives of their day. The reason the term has taken on a pejorative ring is because of their externalism. Not only had they replaced God’s with rules of their own, but they gaged righteousness by external behavior and neglected the heart.

      I believe it is right and good to make rules for ourselves and our children based on our personal convictions. The problem comes when we begin to impose our convictions on other people, even if only in our minds, and pass judgment on them relative to their godlliness or lack of it.

  8. cb scott says


    It is rather simple, but I will explain by using the common definition, for you are of the common garden verity of arrogant, meaning you have no legitimate reason to have such an outlook, although, I am positive it is due to your hugely insecure personality.

    The following describes you pretty well. You fit both definitive groupings.
    making claims or pretensions to superior importance or rights; overbearingly assuming; insolently proud.
    characterized by or proceeding from arrogance, or a sense of superiority, self-importance, or entitlement: constantly making arrogant claims.

    Randy, I guess that pretty much sums you up in a nut shell.

    So, now that I have answered your question, how about answering mine from the beginning of our little dialogue here?

    How did that arrogant personality of yours work out for you during your pastoral ministries from which you have now “retired”?

    • says

      Sorry to interject here. I just wanted to point out a recent study…found in The Narcissism Epedemic. It’s not true that narccist and arrogant people are actually deeply insecure. That’s a myth. They really do think they are awesome.

      This comment has nothing to do with any people…I just wanted to point this out because I’m a nerd.

  9. Dale Pugh says

    A few thoughts on how we comment around here (I’m as guilty as the next person, so I’m exercising some self-confrontation here), following the bullet-point format initiated by Randy:

    1. The original post was written to elicit response to the topic in the original post.

    2. The original post does not address the real or perceived arrogance, obnoxiousness, or any other negative character attribute of any specific individual commenting herein. It is written to address the negative spiritual attribute of what I would term “pharisaism.”

    3. The ability to read the original post, comprehend it’s meaning, and critically examine it’s subject matter is a gift from God, not a curse from Satan.

    4. The original post is to be understood in it’s immediate context, not in the context of the off topic and generally unhelpful comments we are all capable of making.

    5. Random thoughts which are unrelated to the original post are seldom helpful to a good discussion of the subject raised in the original post.

    6. The original post has nothing to say about any individual’s soteriological position or hermeneutical framework. Can we not avoid forcing every discussion into the pigeonhole of Calvinism vs. Everything Else?

    7. Is it simply impossible for us to stay on track with the original posts on this blog? When we see it straying in another direction, it might be good for us to invite the other person into a private email discussion or to come over to our personal blog if we have one. If that person declines the offer to discuss the issue elsewhere, then the off topic conversation should end there.

    In conclusion, I recognize my own contributions to unhelpful and unnecessary discussions in the comments on this blog. Sometimes it just seems like I can’t help myself. I have to commit to policing my own comments since I’m not the comment police for anyone else on here. I can either escalate the comment vitriol or not. In such a situation I have a free will choice to make.
    I think I’ll impose a personal sabbatical from commenting, though I will probably continue to read forthcoming posts. Later!

    • says


      Your points are salient and well stated. They are apropos and relevant to the conversation.

      The general nastiness that characterizes many of the conversations on this blog are one of the reasons I rarely comment. In general, I do not feel that anything I post will be well-received. In fact, there are some who will deliberately drag up past conversations to get in personal digs at my expense.

      The sad thing is not that there are such trolls – I’ve come to expect them on the internet – but that they populate a blog supposedly intended for the edification of God’s children in general and His ministers in particular. Personally, I would like to see a little more moderation rather than less.

  10. Jess Alford says


    I for one enjoy your comments, they help me to see soteriology more clearly. I love everyones comments even that five-whiskered guy.

    I love encountering folks that differ from me. If what they say is scriptural
    I’m willing to accept it, if not I reject it.

    What eats at me is the fact that when some differs from us, we get all bent out of shape and name calling begins. Did not the Pharisee’s do the same?

    I am going to throw my two cents worth in every time. If I am not welcome to do so, and have to follow you guys and your ideas then I do not need to be on SBC voices.

  11. says

    Regarding the lead post, are we so sure that the spiritual condition of our children is the result of how they were raised? By nature (a sinful nature), they are set from the beginning toward becoming sinful people. And while good, godly training can help somewhat, even in those cases where a child grows up to be a good Christ-like believer, the credit must go to the grace of God and not really to the parents. Even atheists and Pharisees come from good, Christ-like parents—and good, Christ-like believers do also come from atheistic or pharisaical parents. Considering that the bad is inborn and the good must come from God by His grace, can we really take the credit for either? Therefore, I disagree with the premise of the above article, since neither Pharisees nor atheists nor Christ-like believers are the mere products of their upbringing. Every parent has weaknesses and inconsistencies and every parent makes mistakes. All that we can do is raise them as best we can with the grace of God, teach them the principles of God’s truth as best we know them, and lead by example, asking forgiveness when we fail… and pray that God will heal the wounds we’ve caused, correct the misperceptions we’ve taught, and save them by His power.

    • says


      Excellent comment! Such is our nature that we would take credit for what we have not done and shun blame for our sins and failures. If any of our children follow Jesus with a right heart, it is owing wholly to the grace of God.

    • says

      Ken, I disagree. God’s plan for mutigenerational faithfulness when Israel entered the land was parents raising their children according to the word of God (Deut. 6). Also, Christian parents are to bring their children up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord (Eph. 6:4). Of course it’s by God’s grace that all sinners are saved, but God uses means to bring this about (such as godly parents).

      • mike white says

        Except no parent keeps the law of God perfectly or raises their children perfectly. Sin is present and the peopl of Israel were a stubborn rebelliouspeople.

  12. William says

    Jared, one of the routine conversations I have had over the decades is with sincere, faithful parents who raised their kids in the nurture and admonition of the Lord yet found one or more to be difficult and rebellious. I suppose one could delcare that the result is due to faulty parenting, and in some cases there were glaring errors, but there is already an excess of guilt felt by the parents and the prescription is to explain that sometimes good kids from good homes go bad.

    Ken understands this. I do. Perhaps you do but it is easier to give a Gothard-like list. There is a tyranny of prescribed lists for parents from which we should free ourselves to exercise parenting by grace.

    • says

      William, I realize godly parenting doesn’t always produce godly children; and ungodly parenting doesn’t always produce ungodly children. I also realize that the actions of our children are not always due in part to the parents. I’m just talking about what the Bible says concerning parenting. Many times parents produce children who are like themselves.

  13. says


    Maybe the answer is somewhere in the middle of what you guys are saying. Perhaps, assuming the principles in this list you posted are valid biblical principles, it would be better simply to try to conform to the principles and not assume the results are due to our actions. “Train up a child in the way he should go. . . .” is, like the other proverbs, a general principle, not an absolute.

  14. says

    I like the list. These are all factors in failing to raise children in the way they should go and should be well considered by all Christian parents.

    The only bad part I saw was an experiential jab at homeschoolers. As a homeschooling father being in contact with other homeschoolers in church as well as in the community at large, this is not my experience at all. In fact, I find the opposite to be true. The homeschooling families I know usually get more exposure to other people because of the flexibility of their schedules. I’ve seen them tremendously involved in local outreach and gospel ministries. My own family is heavily involved in CEF Good News Clubs in our area as well as foreign missions. My oldest son at 14 preached the gospel at an outreach event our church held on the “south side” of town and at 16 is a trained educator and counselor in the Good News Club system. And this is merely representative of most homeschool families in our area. So I’ll pit my experience against Carey Hardy’s any day of the week regarding homeschooling until he gets some hard data.

    Also, the separatist issue has a balance. Many kids sent to public school are not there to bring salt and light to their peers. In fact, they are isolated in age groups and not encouraged to engage even their peers in ministry. Just because someone goes to public school with large classes doesn’t mean that they are taught good social skills much less that they are taught how to use the social skills they have to minister to others. In fact, the social skills they most often learn are conforming non-conformism for the sake of social acceptance (“We’re all different to spite the older generation, but you better be different the same way I am or I won’t be your friend.”). This is self-centered and ultimately anti-social. I was public schooled and I suck at good social skills. My kids are light years ahead of me on this in part because I wanted them to have a broader base of social interaction focused on ministering as the Body of Christ. And my family is in the public schools with the GNCs, so we have seen the culture there today with an eye to minister to it.

  15. Greg Harvey says

    By the way…I thought of a single-step program for raising a Pharisee:

    Be a Pharisee in everything you say and do. Your children will become just like you.

  16. says

    Jared, I can agree with Hardy that unnecessary separatism is a danger for which home-schoolers — and everyone else — must watch out. But I think he either misunderstands home-schooling generally or caricatures a certain subset of home-schoolers for all of them. A lot of people think all home-schooling families are withdrawn from school & society in such a way that the children have no social interaction with others. True, there are some home-schoolers who withdraw from most everything and isolate themselves. But this, in almost every case, is not an result of home-schooling. Rather, such parents choose home-schooling as a consequence of their isolationism. We chose to home-school, after they had already started in public school, and found that our children had many more (quantity) & more diverse (quality) opportunities to interact with others socially.

    • says


      I had noticed the same thing. After reading the further description of what Hardy describes, it is obvious he is referring to a very unique set of homeschoolers with very different ideas on what homeschooling is.

      For example, Hardy’s example includes them pulling away from their youth groups. This has nothing to do with actual schooling and everything to do with the parents isolationism as you pointed out.

      Thanks fr your good words.

  17. Jess Alford says

    One quick way to raise a Pharisee, take the do as I say, and not as Ido approach. It will work everytime. You can have as many little Pharisees as you want with this approach. You will even have Grandpharisees and even
    Great grandpharisees. Oh, you will be so proud!