Surpassing a high standard of righteousness

There seems to be a difference when we say we are to “be righteous” or to “live righteously”.  To live righteously would seem to imply that our actions we do are to be righteous.  To be righteous would imply a constant state of righteousness.  Which is easier to carry out?

In Matthew 5:20, Jesus gave his disciples a command that is impossible to carry out:

For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven.”

I would say it would be impossible to surpass the righteousness of law-abiding Pharisees even if in today’s modern-day context.  Unless Jesus becomes our very own righteousness, or gives us his righteousness, there is no way to have a perfect righteousness.   Living out perfect moral lives is impossible and Jesus seemed to be giving us the impression here to the effect of saying, “Since you can’t surpass the righteous of typical lawyers, there is no way you can do it on your own, you are then forced to run toward Jesus to be our righteousness.

Can we live righteous enough lives to have a righteousness that is better than perfect law-abiding people?  I have admit that I don’t.

My prayer: Jesus, be my righteousness because I cannot be righteous enough to surpass the righteousness of good people.

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Author: Kevin S.

A follower of Jesus, a husband and a father. Hobbies include biking, keeping fish if they don't die on me, blogging when I can, theologizing and ministry, and pondering about world affairs.

2 thoughts on “Surpassing a high standard of righteousness”

  1. WE may be thinking the same thing but in different words.
    Here is my take. The scripture, as you have it in your article, does not say ‘perfect’ righteousness, but maybe that is what Jesus was implying. I feel that Jesus wants us to go beyond the ‘show and tell’. He did say that the pharisees act in order to get praise from people. So their righteousness was an outward one of convenience, a political maneuver calculated to impress.
    Jesus wants us to embrace righteousness inside as a part of who we are-our character. Then we will think, walk, and act righteous with no thought of it. That would be going beyond the pharisees because it would be true righteousness. Will we still fail?-yes, all the time. We live in a fallen world with fallen minds. But our spirit is renewed so it is not impossible to get back in line and over come our selfish tendencies.

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  2. Donna, despite my late reply, I appreciate your comment. I struggled with trying to achieve “perfect righteousness” but as with most Christians, we realize we can never be perfect as Jesus is perfect. Thus, we are simultaneously “sinners saved by grace” and sanctified saints. I don’t have to condemn myself when I do fail. On the same token, I also aim to live righteously. So yes, I think we are thinking the same thing but using different words. It may be semantics.

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