January 20 – Today’s Readings – Matthew 5-6 and Psalms 20
I would like to leave you with a simple thought today; “Unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:20)
When Jesus was in His ministry years the Pharisees, Sadducees and Scribes were outwardly very righteous and disciplined people! Their “righteousness” – (that is their religious discipline) – probably put ours to shame at times. In the same way, a devout Muslim or Hindu’s “outwardly righteous” disciplines may also seem over-the-top. A Buddhist monk or a devout follower of Krishna may be extremely acsetic and disciplined in his religious ways.
In this passage, Jesus seems at first to be instituting some of the same extreme religious rules when he begins speaking about “plucking out our eyes” and “cutting off our hands” – the body parts that were causing sin!
Here then is the great mystery of our faith! This is why we call ourselves Christians! This is why we can be called “holy” and “saints”. It’s not because of all the great acts of righteousness that we accumulate to earn us “God points”. It really is about Christ living in us. This is the hope of glory. Unless the Lord builds my spiritual house, I build it in vain – unless I become as a little child and allow him to lead me by the hand, I will surely lose my way.
The truth is that our righteousness has already exceeded the righteousness of the Scribes and Pharisees because we didn’t come to God based on our own righteousness but on the righteousness of Christ. He became the righteousness of God in us when we came to Him with child-like faith. Let us be careful then of not using Matthew 5 and 6 to judge people as “ungodly” because of some issue in their life. Jesus “raised the bar” concerning all sin issues when He declared it was impossible for you and I to be righteous by doing religious things. This is why He could say to those who wanted to stone the woman caught in adultery, (John 8:7) “If any of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her”. Staying soft and pliable in the hands of God is not an optional thing in our lives – it is the very essence of our salvation – our righteousness. God bless you this day – stay soft!
1. If we’re not all about earning “God Points”, then why should we put the effort into basic spiritual disciplines like reading our Bibles, praying or attending Church?
2. What was Jesus really referring to when He spoke about “plucking out our eyes” or “cutting off our hands”?