Beware the Leaven of the Pharisees

Division has done more to hide Christ from the view of men, than all the infidelity that has ever been spoken.  It is the half-Christian clergy of every denomination that are the main cause of the so-called failure of the church of Christ.

Many a thief is a better man than many a clergyman, and miles nearer to the gate of the kingdom. 

Theologians have done more to hide the gospel of Christ than any of its adversaries.

The old race of the Pharisees is by no means extinct: they were St Paul’s great trouble, and are yet to be found in every religious community under the sun.
— George MacDonald

George MacDonald was a clergyman for a short period of time, and his disappointment and frustration with many of the religious leaders of his day is evident in the quotes above.  Certainly not all church leaders are corrupt or bad, but even Jesus warns us to be aware and guard against the sort of men whom MacDonald decried. 

Perhaps there are still some modern-day Pharisees in the church today....

"Watch out for false prophets.  They come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves." 
Matthew 7:15

John the Baptist and Jesus warned against the Pharisees calling them a brood of vipers:

"You snakes! You brood of vipers! How will you escape being condemned to hell?" 
Matthew 23:33

"But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to where he was baptizing, he said to them: 'You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath.'"
Matthew 3:7

"You brood of vipers, how can you who are evil say anything good?  For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of."
Matthew 12:34,

C.S. Lewis echoes this idea in his writings.  He writes in Mere Christianity, "That is why a cold, self-righteous prig who goes regularly to church may be far nearer to hell than a prostitute."  Also in Reflections on the Psalms, Lewis writes, "Of all the bad men religious bad men are the worst."  "I believe that there are too many accommodating preachers, and too many practitioners in the church who are not believers.  Jesus Christ didn't say, 'Go into the world and tell the world that it is quite right.' The Gospel is something completely different. In fact, it is directly opposed to the world." Sherwood Wirt interviewing C.S. Lewis, "Cross-Examination," God in the Dock.  "...I have been a converted Pagan living among apostate Puritans." Surprised by Joy: The Shape of My Early Life.  "I wish they would remember that the charge to Peter was 'Feed my sheep', not 'Try experiments on my rats', or even 'Teach my performing dogs new tricks"  Letters to Malcolm: Chiefly on Prayer

So maybe it does not seem very polite to speak so critically against Pharisees.  But Jesus himself was without sin and referred to them in harsh terms.  One can also sense this righteous anger coming also from George MacDonald and C.S. Lewis towards the Pharisees of their day. 

Jesus said, "For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven."  Matthew 5:20