Matt 5:17-20: "Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill. 18 "For assuredly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled. 19 "Whoever therefore breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever does and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven. 20 “For I say to you, that unless your righteousness exceeds the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven.”
Jesus’ interpretation of the laws that the Father handed down through Moses and the prophets were different than that of the peoples of that day. They set legalistic rules that were to be followed by the letter with no regards for the deeper spiritual meaning of the laws. That is why Jesus says, “"You have heard that it was said to those of old, 'You shall not commit adultery.’ “But I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” The rules were not just set up just to follow like mindless robots; these laws should be followed by the heart of the believer. You can follow the words of the law, but God is looking for what is in our hearts. When we follow the laws because we want to please God, because we love Him and desire to follow Christ, which is the better way. Mindless duty turns into drudgery, and drudgery has no place in the Christ-followers life. Our relationship with Jesus needs to fresh and alive not animatronic.
That is why Jesus gave the extreme command that unless our righteousness exceeds that of the religious folks of the day we cannot enter heaven. That was a shock to the people of that day because the scribes and Pharisees were the “sacred and spiritual” leaders that everyone looked to for guidance. The problem with this group was that they were legalistic imposing their “righteousness” on others thinking themselves better then anyone else because they “believed” that they had all of the answers. There job was to teach and shepherd people on how to have a closer relationship with God. Instead they pushed people farther away from God because of their legalistic mindset. The problem was they let their knowledge and their zeal cause pride. Pride and arrogance caused the scribes and Pharisees to think themselves better and squared away with God, not realizing that they were inciting God’s wrath.
There are scribes and Pharisees today that would let their knowledge and self-righteousness be as whitewashed vessels. Clean and good-looking on the outside, yet on the inside they are filthy. Jesus was warning His followers of hypocrisy, that a true Christ-follower needs to be clean on the inside, as well as on the outside. He was also telling His followers to be careful of comparing themselves to anyone other then Jesus. Good looking and good talking does not make someone good. It is only by a broken and contrite heart that God can use someone. Arrogance, pride, and legalism is of the devil and has no place in a Christ-follower’s life.
Old Testament: Gen 18-19 New Testament Matt 6: