You Have Heard…But I Say

“For I say to you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven.” Matthew 5:20, NASB

Jesus is much more than a rule-keeper. Yet he sets a much higher standard for us than we could ever meet by human effort. Imagine the look on the faces of his fishermen friends when he tells them they won’t get into the kingdom unless they can do even better than the professionally religious!

Then he gives some examples, citing the ancient commands: “You have heard it that it was said…but I say to you.”

Jesus goes beyond behavior and exposes the heart. The heart of hatred behind murder. The heart of lust behind adultery. The heart of false righteousness behind a selfish divorce. The heart of religion behind empty promises and overinflated words. The heart of selfishness behind retribution.

It’s not enough for Jesus that we meet the benchmarks of right behavior in the flesh. He requires us to live from a righteous heart that exceeds the standards. Does this seem too hard? If so, good. Then we are getting the point. The standards of a spiritual kingdom are too high and holy to be met by the flesh.

September 30, 2011