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. -Matthew 5:20 NIV

The Sermon on the Mount often contrasts the external and internal compliances of Mosaic Law. In this sermon Jesus alludes to how sins like murder and adultery begin in the heart and sometimes cause external acts. And in this verse above he continues the thought that divine righteousness is not attained by external obedience to the letter of the Law.

Religious people, even learned leaders like teachers, sometimes forget that righteousness (that is not self-righteous) is an issue of the heart. It begins when righteousness is birthed in us when we are spiritually born. This newly born righteousness is alive. It is nurtured and matured as we grow in Christ. It surpasses all other forms of righteousness.

Center me Lord by your righteousness in me. Cause me to live in a righteous way that pleases you.

... this devotion is part of an ongoing series on words in the bible.


  1. I am currently reading NT Wright's After You Believe - and he does have quite an interesting take on the Beatitudes and the Sermon on the Mount. I have not completed the book but his interpretation is based on his common theme in most of his books - the Kingdom of God, which is already upon us. And we as God's children are brought into this new kingdom by his grace and with the new life, the poor in spirit, the mourners, the humble has blessings now because they will have the kingdom, be comforted and inherit the earth. And the behaviour that is expected of them as citizens of this kingdom are as per the teachings in the Sermon on the Mount. We are to practice these virtues as citizens of this kingdom.

    1. Appreciate that perspective Pearlie. I wonder if the Sermon on the Mount is really about establishing a new delineation of laws or if it is more about the insufficiency of the law to transform the human heart and present a different view of righteousness.


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