Matthew 5:20 is a sobering verse. It’s easy to poke fun and point fingers at the Pharisees, but it’s more important to remember that the law was everything to them. They knew righteousness was important, so Jesus uses them as an example in this powerful reminder that we can never be good enough. He became our righteousness, so righteousness would not become our idol.
“For I say to you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven.” NASB
Jesus is the only righteous man, living out and fulfilling God’s law in a way only He could. He was the Word made flesh and the Son of God. His life did not remotely resemble the lives of the Pharisees. He went with sacrifice and service instead of piety and power. What a different Messiah than the Pharisees expected. They wanted someone like them, but Jesus did not fit their bill. I could point a finger here, but I don’t dare because I expect my God and my Messiah to be like me, as well. It is the root of idolatry, and it tears the body of Christ to pieces.
Christ came to make us one by becoming our righteousness. 1 Corinthians 10:17 says it beautifully and reminds me of the unity Christ desires each time I hear it.
“Since there is one bread, we who are many are one body; for we all partake of the one bread.” NASB
Righteousness got in God’s way when the Pharisees tried to own it. Righteousness took on new meaning when Christ fulfilled God’s Word. He became our righteousness, and that changes everything. We no longer have to spend a lifetime trying to be who only Christ can be. God knows we are not perfect, so He sent His Son to be perfect for us. God sees Jesus each time He looks at us because we are one. God doesn’t expect me to be perfect, but He does expect me to love because He knows I will find Him when I do.
Lillyann asked me last night after her prayers if God was a person like us. I told her about God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit. Her little prayers always touch me in a special way and remind me to keep my own simple. There’s nothing I love more than hearing her say, “Thank you God.” Thank you God, indeed! It’s the most powerful prayer of all, especially when it comes from the heart of a child.