The sermon on the mount is so full of wisdom and truth, many churches spend entire years studying it. It is daunting to think about preaching or blogging on it. Where does one start when trying to explain or interpret such a thick body of material?
So I asked the LORD to focus me upon one verse.
It was a verse to which I never gave much attention, but it hooked me, especially the words "your righteousness."
Unless your righteousness is greater, far exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you have no place, you have no case before God, in the kingdom of heaven.
This is something I guard with a vengence. How do I know this? Just have one person criticize me, or challenge me, or correct me, and my righteousness is defended by my ability to blame, rationalize and prove my way or my point. I easily know when I can do something better than another or if someone else is not up to my par. I like to be right. I like to think I am always right.
The Pharisees and scribes felt the same way. The Pharisees tried to be right by demonstrating their right living as their strength. By gum! We're going to love God so much it hurts. We're going to prove ourselves by keeping the Law as perfectly as anyone could imagine.
The scribes tried to be right by demonstratin their right thinking. By gum! We're going to love God with our minds, even if it means that's all we do. We're going to know more, memorize more, go to school more than anyone else.
The Pharisees and the scribes looked "right" on the outside, but Jesus looks at the heart. You don't murder? he asks. I tell you if you are even angry with a brother or a sister you have killed them in your heart. You don't commit adultery? I tell you if you even lust after someone or have fantasies about someone, you have committed adultery!
The gavel comes down and we all slink as the guilty sentence falls.
I can't do it. I can't be even as righteous as the Pharisees and the scribes, much less exceed abundantly in my strivings.
Paul calls our righteousness "dirty rags."
If we think we can walk into the throne room of God in dirty rags and be welcomed, we are mistaken.
When Moses walked into the throne room of Pharoah, God told him to lay down his rod, his identity as a shepherd and the defense of his personhood. Lay it down!
Lay it down, I hear God saying to me. Don't come in here toting your righteousness! Take off those dirty, filthy, stinky clothes of self righteousness, scrub up in the baptism of the Holy Spirit and then have your big brother, Jesus, loan you his clothing for the rest of your life...his righteousness must become your own. Only then do you have a case and a place in the kingdom.