The scribes and Phariesees were some pretty self-righteous guys. They prided themselves in keeping every little letter of the law and looked down upon those who did not. The audience of the Sermon on the Mount were accustomed to this type of legalism, so imagine their surprise upon hearing Jesus' teachings:
"For I say to you, unless your righteousness exceeds the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven" (Matthew 5:20).
Had you been standing there that day, you might have thought, "What? How could I possibly be more righteous than Phil the Pharisee over there?!"
But as we have already considered in a recent post, Jesus was addressing issues of the heart. He begins to address some rather significant issues and at a deeper level:
* Don't murder, and don't be angry without a cause.
* Reconcile with your brother before giving a gift at the alter.
* Don't commit adultery, and do not lust.
* Do not divorce except in the case of sexual immorality. (Before they would divorce and only were required to give a certificate of divorce--the gospel according to the Pharisees. ;-)
* Let your "yes" be yes and your "no" be no.
* Turn the other cheek.
* Go the extra mile.
* Love your enemies; bless those who curse you.
* Do good to those who hate you; pray for those who persecute you.
These principles penetrate our feeble attempts at outer obedience and once again address the attitudes of our hearts. Consider the humility and submission to Christ that the above teachings require. Give thought to the "dying to self" that is involved.
Now back to the verse at the beginning of the post--how does one attain a righteousness that "exceeds the righteousness of the scribes and Phariesees?"
"But now the righteousness of God apart from the law is revealed, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, even the righteousness of God, through faith in Jesus Christ, to all and on all who believe. For there is no difference; for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God set forth as a propitiation by His blood, through faith, to demonstrate His righteousness, because in His forbearance God had passed over sins that were previously committed to demonstrate at the present time His righteousness, that He might be just and THE JUSTIFIER OF THE ONE WHO HAS FAITH IN JESUS" (Romans 3:21-26).
Thank you, Lord, for Your justification. Help me go the extra mile.
In the Heart of our Home,