Book Business

The Accidental Pharisee

Anyone who spends even a little time reading the New Testament discovers the only times Jesus got really angry was when he confronted religious people who were so far off the intended track they needed outright and immediate correction or even condemnation. Jesus could judge, after all he was God in the flesh.

Those who didn’t know any better were treated with relative kindness, called upon to repent and instructed to start living a new life.

Even demons were simply authoritatively dismissed by Jesus and told to leave, which they did immediately because they knew who was really in charge.

What was it about Pharisees that drew so much of Jesus’ ire?  They had the truth, but had grown blind and deaf to the message, replacing it with their own structures and standards.  Simply, they should have known better.

If not on constantly guard over their own hearts, Christian authors can become modern day Pharisees.

The Pharisees were arrogant and prideful. They claimed to speak for God. They invoked God’s name in situations where they were simply manipulating other people. They worshiped the words written on the scrolls, not the message they carried. They obsessed over the very letters and syntax used in the Hebrew text rather than whether they were understood or applied appropriately. They set themselves as the authorities and demanded adherence to their standards, claiming infallibility. They focused on outward appearances rather than inward holiness.

No wonder Jesus was mad.

When an author invokes “God gave me this message” or “God told me to do this” they open the door to Pharisee-like behavior. There’s a confidence in one’s self that is disconcerting to the rest of us who know we often don’t hear God as clearly as others apparently think they do.

After all, our thoughts are not his thoughts.

In short, we “miss-hear” God a lot, confusing our desires with his. Not always, but often enough to cast some doubt on our ability to discern. Best to start with a humble spirit.

When an author states they will simply rely on God instead of learning how to write, or learn how things work in the publishing world or how to develop a solid author platform, they are really stating they are so special, so talented, so confident in their close connection to God, they don’t need to concern themselves with what others do who must have a weaker connection. Rules for others don’t apply to them.

“I am special, listen to me.”

At this point the road to Phariseeism has begun, heading to a major confrontation with God over their behavior. God doesn’t allow pride to stand for long. Especially in people who should know better.

Not long ago, I was pitched a proposal from an author who pulled out all the stops.

They were a messenger called by God to address a certain issue with the world in a book. God had given them the very words of their manuscript. Not just the Scripture parts, but every other word as well.  They did not need a platform because God was in charge of this process. In addition, God led them to me personally. We were ordained by God to work together and make a lot of money. (They mentioned this in particular)

As I reviewed the proposal, it was poorly written. I confess wondering how the same God who inspired the Psalms could have truly been involved in this project.

When I declined (nicely of course), the prospective author responded with a tirade of epic proportions, calling down God’s judgment on me personally and this agency.

It made me feel better, because I knew I had made the right decision to decline.

This is a complicated issue. I struggled how to communicate the necessity for authors maintaining a balance of confidence in their own ability and the humility needed to become a God-lead and inspired author. It’s a personal issue and no one person is like another.

I do know this, the more you invoke God as your agent, the less chance a human agent or publisher will agree to work with you.

Honestly, you scare us.

Christians understand things unbelievers do not. There is no need to invoke the “God sent me” message to another believer. We get it. If you correctly portray God’s word in your book, we know you are spirit-led. Announcing it makes you a bit Pharisee-like. They enjoyed announcing their holiness as well and thanked God they were not like other people.

So, study writing, learn about publishing, accept correction and humbly work to collaborate with God and others who God places in various roles in publishing. When you do, you’ll be surprised how many people will be willing to work with you if you simply put down the façade and let God shine through.



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