For I say unto you, That except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven. Matthew 5:20
Such interesting and serious words Jesus said, that our righteousness must exceed the righteousness of the scribes and the Pharisees! Of course, one can immediately criticize or denounce the scribes and the Pharisees here. One can immediately recall how the scribes and the Pharisees were referred to as hypocrites, as whitewashed tombs, etc. But one thing that is important to note is that the scribes and the Pharisees were the religious leaders of that time, honored by the people, they were “experts” in the law, and they had great knowledge in the scriptures. “Woe to you, lawyers! For you have taken away the key of knowledge. You did not enter yourselves, and you hindered those who were entering.” Luke 11:52
In Matthew Chapter 23, Jesus told the crowds and the disciples to practice and observe what the scribes and the Pharisees preach, but not practice what they do, for they do not practice what they preach! Instead, “they tie up heavy, cumbersome loads and put them on other people’s shoulders… they do all their deeds to be seen by others; and they love the place of honor at feasts, and greetings in the marketplaces…”
Jesus also points out that the scribes and the Pharisees are hypocrites, because they show themselves to be outwardly beautiful and clean, but within are full of death, uncleanness, hypocrisy, and lawlessness.
Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you clean the outside of the cup and the plate, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. You blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and the plate, that the outside also may be clean.
Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within are full of dead people’s bones and all uncleanness. So you also outwardly appear righteous to others, but within you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.
So what does it mean to have our righteousness exceed that of the scribes and the Pharisees? If you read further, Jesus goes on to say:
Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, thou shalt not kill; and whosoever shall kill shall be in danger of the judgment: But I say unto you, That whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment…
Further, Jesus continues this same thought, saying that “ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not commit adultery: But I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart.” At the end of this Chapter (Matthew Chapter 5), Jesus says “Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.”
Jesus shows here that our righteousness must indeed exceed that of the scribes and the Pharisees, which means it cannot remain to be only on the outside and by the law (because I “try”, “need to”, or “have to”). But it must be True righteousness versus self-righteousness, the righteousness which is of God by faith, through the faith of Christ, which is inwardly, within the heart! Which exceeds the righteousness of the law – because it completely changes your core (your heart), your inner thoughts and inner being! It truly makes you a New man, a new creature, sin free!
And be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith. Philippians 3:9
So next time, instead of being quick to cancel out the scribes and the Pharisees, let’s be serious and make sure that we aren’t like the scribes and the Pharisees, where on the outside we are good and try to be good, but on the inside, we are full of hypocrisy, evil, greed, self-indulgence, and death! Let’s be serious and let’s be True christians!
Then came to Jesus scribes and Pharisees, which were of Jerusalem, saying, Why do thy disciples transgress the tradition of the elders? For they wash not their hands when they eat bread. But He answered and said unto them, Why do ye also transgress the commandment of God by your tradition? … Ye hypocrites, well did Esaias prophesy of you, saying, This people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth, and honoureth me with their lips; but their heart is far from me. But in vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men.
Do not ye yet understand, that whatsoever entereth in at the mouth goeth into the belly, and is cast out into the draught? But those things which proceed out of the mouth come forth from the heart, and they defile the man. For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness… Matthew Chapter 15