For I say to you, that unless your righteousness exceeds the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven. Matthew 5:20
There is much to unpack in the rest of Matthew 5, but there is a common theme throughout the words of Jesus.
He is addressing the Law that Pharisees have distorted and molded to fit their own agenda. Jesus didn’t destroy the Law; He destroyed the thinking and attitude behind the Law.
If you read through the book of John with us, you know that Jesus had many encounters with the Pharisees and how many times they missed the mark, especially, when they manipulated the crowd to choose Barrabas over Jesus. They may have not physically nailed Him to the cross, but they were the movement behind it.
All this to say, Jesus lived a perfect, sinless life and upheld the letter of the Law. He fulfilled the righteousness of the law and became the ultimate sacrifice that bridged the gap between humanity and God. The law was never the all end all. Because God’s holiness transcends our sinful state, we cannot enter His presence without an atonement for our sins. Since Jesus is that perfect sacrifice, we now can live in harmony with our Creator.
As Jesus further explains in this chapter, He is getting to the core and meaning behind some of these crucial laws.
We know that God cares about the heart. We also know that our heart is deceitful (Jeremiah 17:9). So if God knows that the heart is the force behind actions and it is deceitful, how will we ever live the life worthy of a place in heaven? The thing is, we won’t. That is why our verse of the week is Matthew 5:20. We will never exceed the righteousness of the religious leaders of those days, so it shows our critical need for our Savior. Everything Jesus says to the disciples is in light of that verse and envelops one theme: We need Jesus.
Since I am not Jesus (obviously), I cannot make a certain statement as to why He chose these specific laws; however, understanding our human nature and His character, I began to make inferences as to why He chose them.
I believe Jesus is teaching that anger, bitterness (Proverbs 10:12) lust, and lying destroys lives. These are the very sins that ruin marriages, break relationships, and hurt others (and ourselves) beyond what we see. When we allow those sins to fester and build in our hearts, these laws are essentially broken. I don’t believe anyone sets out to murder from the day he/she was born. I also don’t believe anyone proudly states their vows on their wedding day with the end goal of divorce. We all have good intentions starting out, but we simply cannot survive in this life without a Savior. Our hearts are too deceitful and fickle. We are sinners. There is only one Sacrifice that can change us from the inside out.
Sure, there are millions of people who have bitterness in their heart and never murder. There are many marriages that don’t end in divorce, but in that same breath, the divorce rate is at an all time high. The number one drug prescribed is an anti-depressant. There are shootings everywhere we turn. Terrorist attacks are all over the world. Violent protests are in our streets.
People are crying out for Jesus. That is why I believe He chose these laws to speak about. They are the root of many evildoings in our world.
You might be harboring some of these sins privately in your heart. Confess your sins and the Lord will forgive you (1 John 1:9). Hold yourself accountable with a trusted brother or sister in Christ. Don’t let another day pass without allowing the Holy Spirit to accomplish His work inside your heart.
Live the free life you were born to live and spread it to those in need.
be free. xo