Can’t help but feel a bit uncomfortable every time I read through Jesus’ sermon on the mount. I like the “blessed are you” part. Who doesn’t want to be blessed? But then I get to the “you are” part and it gets a bit warm around the collar.
“You are the salt of the earth” (5:13). That’s on me? To season the earth? To bring out the flavor of the kingdom? To hinder the spread of corruption? And if I lose my saltiness, good for nothing? A little uncomfortable, honestly.
“You are the light of the world” (5:14). Exposing and dispelling darkness in the world? Illuminating the way of God’s economy? Really? No pressure or anything.
And if there’s any question that being salt and light doesn’t involve doing, well Jesus addresses that too. I didn’t come to do away with the Law and Prophets, says Jesus, I have come to fulfill them. Implication? “Therefore whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven” (5:17-19). Ouch! Loose with just one commandment and I’m the least?! More pressure!
But then, that which could be the final crushing expectation is, instead, actually a weight-lifting reality. The reality of an abounding righteousness.
“For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” ~ Jesus
(Matthew 5:20 ESV)
While Jesus says there’s a relationship between one’s obedience and their position in the kingdom, He says that there’s not even entrance into the kingdom apart from a righteousness that exceeds the scribes and Pharisees. Apart from an abundance of righteousness. Apart from an abounding righteousness.
The Pharisees had the externals of righteousness down pat. Religious ceremony? Check. Ritualistic cleansing? Check. Dotting every behavioral i and crossing every performance-based t? Check. The Book memorized? As to the Law blameless? Check. Check.
Good enough for entrance into the elite club of religious leaders, but not good enough for entrance into the kingdom of heaven. For that, an abounding righteousness is needed.
A righteousness that goes beyond action and is sourced in attitude. Manifest not just by going through the motions but authenticated by the motives. More than the external rehearsal of good deeds, it’s the internal reality of a pure heart. A righteousness that goes deep. A righteousness that’s at the core. An abounding righteousness.
A righteousness that is only found in Another. A righteousness that only comes from Another. A righteousness not our own, but imputed to those who have believed the gospel and accepted Christ as Savior.
For our sake He made Him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God.
(2Corinthians 5:21 ESV)
The righteousness of God. That’s the abounding righteousness . . . the righteousness fit for entrance into the kingdom of heaven . . . the righteousness credited to our account through the finished work of the cross and because of the perfect person of Christ.
Not left to my own to be salt and light. Not relying on my resources to walk in a manner worthy of my calling. But abounding in righteousness, the righteousness found in Christ. It is no longer I who live, but the Son of God who lives in me (Gal. 2:20). Seeking to obey not in my own strength, but in the power of the Spirit of God who is working a work of transformation throughout me.
The pressure giving way to the promise that “His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us to His own glory and excellence” (2Pet. 1:3).
I don’t have what it takes, but I know the One who does.
Lord, let Your abounding righteousness become, more and more, my abiding reality.
By Your grace. For Your glory.