For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. —Matthew 5:20
Righteousness. What is righteousness? How can I, you might ask, being a sinner, exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees? In fact, aren’t the scribes and Pharisees usually examples of unrighteousness? What’s going on here?!
You, dear Christian, are to be the salt of the earth (Cf. Matthew 5:13). To you is given the Christian duty to love your neighbor by proclaiming the Word of God to those you influence in your family and work. As you hear the Preached Word from your pastor, you have the responsibility to disseminate it. Not an easy task all the time, and certainly not one we are perfect at accomplishing for that matter too.
You, dear Christian, are to be the light of the world (Cf. Matthew 5:14-16). To you is given the Christian duty to love your neighbor by being an enlightening revealer of the Truth. But again, how well do you do this?
Indeed, you, dear Christian, are given many duties in this life. To be a spouse, a parent, a single person, a child, a student, a worker, and many other various and wonderful vocations. Whatever your vocation or vocations, you, dear Christian, are ultimately given to follow in the way of Christ and bestow your good works upon all people.
There’s one problem. With such a charge to be the salt of the earth, and a light for the world, I’m sure it isn’t difficult to recall the times when you have failed in these duties. Such as when your proclamation of God’s Word was laced with arrogance or pride, and perhaps weak or retreating. Or, when your light was more of a flicker, and the light of Christ Jesus that you displayed was merely his silhouette. How broken we are, and how sad it is when our efforts to do good, to glorify God, fail by our sinfulness.
All true. We fail yet Christ does not. Jesus came and fulfilled the Law. Not simply bringing a salty savory Salvation story but being the Saving One himself. All those would be good works find their fulfillment in the fulfiller of the Law. Jesus by fulfilling the Law, fulfilled the very best work for you: Life from death! Freedom through Forgiveness! Righteousness that exceeds the scribes and Pharisees!
Righteousness is God’s good work in you, and your good works are thereby God’s. Anything you accomplish in your neighbor, be it that your proclamation brings them to belief and worship; or that your light of faith is passed on like one torch to another–it is God’s work! It never fails! Any would be sinful failures are forgiven. Your life in Christ remains full of purpose because Christ died on the cross to make you righteous in all things through Jesus’ good work of crucifixion and resurrection.
Don’t let this salty Word of God leave a bad taste in your mouth. Rather, receive it with an unburdened joy and continue to be a light in the world by lifting up Christ in such a dark place. The righteousness of Christ is your righteousness, and no scribe or Pharisee has anything on Him! Thanks be to God!