For Boomer generations and possibly some Gen-Xers the Pharisee comes out in self-focus. Rather than looking at gifts as a means of God's grace expressed toward the life of others (Ephesians 4:11-16), we tend to think of it as something we are good at or skilled in. This small tweak causes it to be about us rather than God ministering to others through us.
Small tweaks, but one's that send us on a different trajectory of perspective. Now, I'm sure it reveals itself in a number of different ways for each generation, but there is one way I see the Pharisee subversively surfacing in Millennials.
It shows up under the umbrella of "gifts." Let me explain.
Out of a unique desire to find the specific thing that God wants them to be doing, there is a distinct focus on making sure they are using their gifts. It isn't malicious (just as the Boomer perspective is not), but it is becoming more obvious. It is often a generational spiritualization of self-focus.
So here is one thought I think Jesus would have for all generations: It's not about what you do or how your gifts are used, but about who you love. Here are a couple of thoughts from scripture as to why I say this:
- In Matthew 22:37-39 Jesus answers a question the Pharisees asked. They're question was, "What is the greatest thing we should be doing?" They were concerned about doing commandments. However, when we understand the context of Deuteronomy 6 and all that plays into that for a Jewish mindset, Jesus essentially responds by saying, "It's not about you do. It's about who you love."
- 1 Corinthians 12 and 13 talk about both gifts and love. Chapter 12 is clearly laying out gifts of the Spirit. But then when we get to chapter 13 Paul is saying that all of that is void without love. In other words the only eternal thing, and thus the only thing worthy of our focus, is love. This makes a lot of sense since God is love (1 John 4:7-10). God has always been a self-giving loving relationship (that is referred to as the "Trinity"). God as a loving relationship of 3 Persons is what our Christian faith is founded on.
So, as Millennials ask and wrestle with how they are gifted my encouragement is that we help them through it by helping them embrace the facts: it's not about you, but about who you love.