That which we have seen and heard we declare to you … and these things we write to you that your joy may be full. 1 John 1:3-4
Have you ever seen a book on the joy of the Pharisees? That’s not to say the subject has never been explored. But where would a writer begin? There is nothing in the Gospels to suggest that the legalistic religious leaders of Jesus’ day were overflowing with joy. Instead, there is plenty to suggest that they spent a good deal of time nurturing their religious outward appearance to conceal a barren inner spiritual life.
Hypocrisy—that’s what Jesus called it (Matthew 23:13, 15, 23, 25, 27-29). His most vivid illustration of the Pharisees’ spiritual life was calling them “whitewashed tombs,” beautiful on the outside but filled with “dead men’s bones and all uncleanness.” How can anyone cultivate joy when their attention is focused on being right about religious rules and living a double-standard life? The apostle John raised the same issue in 1 John. Joy is found in fellowship with God and others (1 John 1:3-4). We can’t live a hypocritical life and walk in that fellowship.
As we transition from spiritual darkness to light, we are tempted to play spiritual games. Stay true; stay joyful; stay in fellowship with God.