Today’s selected reading continues in the New Testament gospel concerning the life and ministry of Jesus Christ written by the apostle Matthew. More specifically, today’s passage begins with the nineteenth verse of the sixth chapter and continues through to the sixth verse of the seventh chapter. When you come to this particular passage of scripture you ind Jesus transitioning from speaking concerning the righteousness of the kingdom to now speaking about the values of the kingdom. What I find to be so incredibly unique and challenging about this passage of scripture is how Jesus began speaking concerning the righteousness of the kingdom earlier on in the fifth chapter, and now shifts gears to speaking about what which is valuable and worthwhile in the kingdom. It is safe to say that in this sermon on the mount, Jesus is taking that which we deem valuable and worthwhile within our daily lives and flipping it on itself, and turning it on its head. In the fifth chapter of the New Testament gospel of Matthew we find Jesus declaring unto His disciples and all those who gathered unto Him to listen to Him speak how unless their righteousness exceeded that of the scribes and the Pharisees they would in no wide enter into the kingdom of heaven. What we then find Jesus do is compare and contrast the righteousness that is earthly and of this world with the righteousness that is of the kingdom of heaven. It’s worth noting that there is a righteousness that comes according to the flesh—a righteousness that is according to the law or Moses. There was a righteousness which the scribes and Pharisees held on to thinking Abe believing themselves to be justified and righteous in the sight of the living God. What I find to be so telling about this sermon on the mount is that Jesus takes the righteousness of the law, turns it on its head, and constructs it with the righteousness of the kingdom. In other words, there is a righteousness that is according to the law which is earthly and natural, and there is a righteousness that is of the kingdom and according to the law of Christ.
The more I read, study and consider the kingdom of heaven, the more I am absolutely and completely struck with and by the fact that Jesus isn’t at all impressed with and by the righteousness that is according to the law of Moses. Jesus is in no way, shape or form impressed with and by the righteousness that is produced by the law, for even though that righteousness comes according to the law which was given unto Moses, it did not touch the inner part of a man. If there is one fundamental difference between the righteousness of the kingdom and the righteousness that is of the earth, it’s that the righteousness of man—that righteousness which is earthly and natural—does not touch the inner parts and depths of a man. The righteousness which was according to the law of Moses only touched the external factors and dimensions of a man, while potentially leaving the inner man completely untouched, unharmed, and unaffected. The righteousness which was that which the scribes and Pharisees adhered to was a righteousness that looked good and appeared to be valuable on the external and outward part of a man, however, it did not touch that inner part of a man which appears before God alone. There is a righteousness of man that on the outward looks good and appears attractive and appealing, however, such a righteousness leaves the inner part of a man completely broached and unable to be changed and transformed by the power of the Spirit. This was in fact what Jesus condemned and indicted the scribes and the Pharisees for later on during His life and ministry, for He inducted them for a pseudo and false righteousness which looked good on the outside and sought to be attractive before men, and yet before God was nothing but a dirty and rotten rag. Oh we dare not miss or lose sight of the vast and fundamental difference between the righteousness of the kingdom and the righteousness of the earth, for the righteousness of the kingdom completely changes and transforms man from the inside out.
TRANSFORMED FROM THE INSIDE OUT! As I continue to consider and meditate upon the righteousness of the kingdom versus the righteousness of man, I can’t help but be struck by the overwhelming fact that the righteousness of men focuses only on the outward, and never works its way to the inside. The righteousness which is of men only touched the external appearance of men, and places a shiny polish and shiny veneer on an individuals life while doing absolutely nothing with the inside of a man. The righteousness of the kingdom begins on the inside of a man and works its way out to where it completely affects and touches the entire being of an individual. Perhaps this is what Jesus meant when He declared that the kingdom of heaven was like yeast which one hid in a batch of meal and left there until it spread and leavened the entire batch. The kingdom of heaven is like yeast which is hidden inside of us—inside our inner man—and is hidden there until it completely spreads throughout the entire being of a person, thus touching the whole person. Oh that we would learn to long for and desire a righteousness which doesn’t just touch the outward and external part of a man, but that which touches the whole and entire part of a man. There are those among us who are content with having a righteousness that merely touches the external part of a man while leaving that which is inward and visible unto God and God alone completely and utterly unaffected and untouched. I can’t help but see a strong and powerful connection between the words we find in the Sermon on the Mount and the words which our Lord spoke unto the scribes and Pharisees when He indicted them for their own self-righteousness, legalism and hypocrisy. I can’t help but see a wonderful and powerful connection between the righteousness which comes from above—the righteousness of the kingdom—and the righteousness which is from below, and is earthly natural and fleeting. The more I study and the more I consider the righteousness of the kingdom, the more I am convinced that the righteousness of the kingdom is one that is hidden and concealed away from the watching eyes of men, and cannot in and of itself be seen. Concerning the righteousness of the kingdom, we must recognize and understand that this righteousness of the kingdom—although it is hidden within the inner man—can in fact become visible in the external and outward part of a man as it completely transforms and alters the external appearance of a man. This is what was so incredibly deadly and dangerous about the righteousness which the scribes and Pharisees held on to, for their righteousness was one which appeared only unto men, for that was the only approval, applaud and accolade they needed and desired. Consider if you will the words which our Lord spoke when berating, bemoaning and indicting them before the multitudes and disciples:
“The scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat: all therefore whatsoever they bid you observe, that observe and do; but do not yet after their works: for they say, and do not. For they bind heavy burdens and grievous to be borne, and lay them on men’s shoulders; but they themselves will not move them with one of their fingers. But all their works they do for to be seen of men: they make broad their phylacteries, and enlarge the borders of their garments, and love the uppermost rooms at feasts, and the chief seats in the synagogues, and greetings in the markets, and to be called of men, Rabbi, Rabbi. But be not ye called Rabbi: for one is your Master, even Christ; and all hype are brethren. And call no man your father upon the earth: for one is your Father, which is in heaven. Neither be ye called masters: for in is your Master, even Christ. But he that is greatest among you shall be your servant. And whosoever shall exalt himself shall be abased; and he that shall humble himself shall be exalted. But woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For ye shut up the kingdom of heaven against men: for ye neither go in yourselves, neither suffer ye them that are entering to go in. Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For ye devour widows’ houses, and for a presence make long prayer: therefore ye shall receive the greater damnation. Woe unto you scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For ye compass sea and land to make one proselyte, and when he is made, ye make him twofold more the child of hell than yourselves. Woe unto you, ye blind guides, which say Whosoever shall swear by the temple, it is nothing; but whosoever shall swear by the gold of the temple, he is a debtor! Ye fools and blind: for whether is greater, the gold, or the temple that sanctifieth the gold? And, Whosoever shall swear by the altar, it is nothing;/ but whosoever sweareth by the gift that is upon it, he is guilty. Ye fools and blind: for whether is greater, the gift, or the altar, that sanctifieth the gift? Whoso therefore shall swear by the altar, sweareth by it, and by all things thereon. And whoso shall swear by the temple, sweareth by it, and by him that dwelleth therein. And he that shall swear by heaven, sweareth by the throne of God, and but him that sitteth thereon. Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For ye pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have omitted the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith: these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone. Ye blind guides, which strain at a gnat, and swallow a camel. Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For ye make clean the outside of the cup and of the platter, but within they are full of extortion and excess. Thou blind Pharisees, cleanse first that which is within the cup and platter, that the outside of them may be clean also. Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For ye are like unto whited sepulchures, which indeed appear beautiful outward, but are within full of dead men’s bones, and of all uncleanness. Even so ye also outwardly appear righteousness unto men, but within ye are full of hypocrisy and iniquity. Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! Because ye build the tombs of the prophets, and garnish the sepulchres of the righteousness, and say, If we had been in the days of our fathers, we would not have been partakers with them in the blood of the prophets. Wherefore ye be witnesses unto yourselves, that ye are the children of them which killed the prophets. Fill ye up then the measure of your fathers. Ye serpents, ye generation of vipers, how can ye escape the damnation of hell?” (Matthew 23:1-33).
It is absolutely necessary and imperative when reading the words which Jesus spoke unto the disciples and the multitudes that gathered unto Him to listen to Him speak that we recognize and understand that the righteousness which the scribes and Pharisees adhered to was a righteousness that on the outward looked and appeared to be attractive and pleasing in the sight of the Lord, and yet Jesus emphatically and without reservation declared was unfit for the kingdom of heaven. Jesus indicted the scribes and the Pharisees for concerning themselves only with externals while being completely untouched and unaffected by that which was found to be within themselves—that which appeared not before men, but before God. Jesus indicted the scribes and the Pharisees for their righteousness, for the righteousness they pursued was a righteousness that cared absolutely nothing for the inner part of a man, but only that which was external, and that which appeared before the watching eyes of men. In fact, this is what is so incredibly challenging about the remainder of the fifth chapter of the gospel according to Matthew, for after Jesus had just declared unto the multitudes that unless their righteousness exceeded that of the scribes and Pharisees, they would in no wise enter into the kingdom of heaven. What we find in the rest of the fifth chapter of Matthew’s gospel is a powerful declaration concerning the contrast between the righteousness which is of the law, and the righteousness of the kingdom. The righteousness of the law only concerns itself with commandments such as “Thou shalt not kill,” “Thou shalt not commit adultery,” “Thou shalt not bear false witness,” and the like—while completely neglecting and ignoring that which is found at the very heart, the very core, and the very depth of those commandments. While it is true that the Lord of hosts delivered unto Moses the commandments to abstain from murder, to abstain from adultery, to abstain from stealing, and various other commandments, that which He commanded only touched the external part of a man. One thing we must recognize and understand is that there is absolutely nothing in the commandments that details and describes the inner part of a man—that part which is hidden and concealed from watching eyes, and those around us. The Lord commanded us not to murder, and not to commit adultery, however, what He didn’t speak to or address was the root of such issues within our heart, and soul and mind. The righteousness of the kingdom takes the righteousness which is of the Law, and which is according to the commandments and statutes given unto Moses, and it completely turns it on itself and drills down to the core issues of such commandments. The righteousness of the kingdom takes the commandments and instruction which was given unto the children of Israel by Moses at Sinai in the wilderness and breaks it apart, thus exposing the root and core issue that could cause someone to commit the actions they do. Consider if you will the words which are found in the fifth chapter of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, and you will come face to face with a wonderful and powerful picture of the righteousness of the kingdom which strikes at the very heart and core of the righteousness of the law:
“For I say unto you, That except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven. Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not kill: and whosoever shall kill shall be in danger of the judgment: but I say unto you, That whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment: and whosoever shall say to his brother, Raca, shall be in danger of the council: but whosoever shall say, Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell fire. Therefore if thou bring thy gift to the altar, and there rememberest that thy brother hath ought against thee; leave there thy gift before the altar, and go thy way; first be reconciled to thy brother, and then come and offer thy gift. Agree with thine adversary quickly, and whiles thou art in the way with him; lest at any time the adversary deliver thee to the judge, and the judge deliver thee to the officer, and thou be cast into prison. Verily I say unto thee, Thou shalt by no means come out thence, till thou hast paid the uttermost farthing. Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not commit adultery: but I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart. And if thy. Right eye offend thee, pluck it out, and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell. And if thy right hand offend thee, cut if off, and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell. It hath been said, Whosoever shall put away his wife, let him give her a writing of divorcement: but I say unto you, That whosoever shall put away his wife, saving for the cause of fornication, causeth her to commit adultery: and whosoever shall marry her that is divorced committeth adultery. Again, ye have heard that it hath been said by them of old time, Thou shalt not forswear thyself, but shalt perform unto the Lord thine oaths: but I say unto you, Swear not at all; neither by heaven; for it is God’s throne: nor by the earth; for it is His footstool: neither by Jerusalem; for it is the city of the great King. Neither shalt thou swear by thy head, because thou canst not make one hair white or black. But let your communication be, Yea, yea; Nay, nay: for whatsoever is more than these cometh of evil. Ye have heard that it hath been said, An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth: but I say unto you, That ye resist not evil: But whosoever shall smite thee on thy right check, turn to him the other also. And if any man will sue that at the law, and take away thy coat, let him have thy cloak. And whosoever shall compel thee to go a mile, go with him twain. Give to him that asketh of thee, and from him that would borrow of thee turn not thou away. Ye have heard it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy. But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; that ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust. For if ye love them which. Love you, what reward have ye? Do not even the publicans the same? And if ye salute your brethren only, what do ye more than others? Do not even the publicans so? Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect” (Matthew 5:20-48).
There is a lot that is found and contained within this particular portion of the Sermon on the Mount, but suffice it to say that what we find in this passage is Jesus taking the righteousness of the law, and turning it on itself, thus exposing and revealing the true heart of the matter. That which Jesus does in this particular portion of the Sermon on the Mount is take the righteousness which is according to the law of Moses and turn it upside down in order that the true heart of the matter might be found present and manifested before all those who gathered before Him to hear and listen to Him speak. The righteousness of the law which was given unto Moses touches only that which was found on the external part of a being, while leaving that which is hidden in the inward chambers and depths of men completely untouched and unaffected. Jesus spoke concerning adultery, and declared that the true heart of the matter was not necessarily adultery, but was actually lust within the heart of an individual. Jesus would go on to declare that he who looked upon a woman with lust in his heart has already committed adultery with her in his heart. Jesus spoke concerning murder and declared how it was said that we should not murder, but He would go on to declare that he who hated and was angry with his brother without a cause would be guilty of judgment and damnation by the Father. What’s more, is that Jesus spoke of the commandment to love our neighbours as ourselves, however, Jesus wasn’t so much concerned with loving our neighbours as He was with loving our enemies, and those which despitefully use us. It was and it is true that we are to love our neighbours, but it’s important to note and understand that Jesus draws no distinction, nor does He draw a dividing line between our neighbours and our enemies, for in His sight we are called to love both as we would love ourselves. Oh, it is absolutely necessary and imperative that we recognize and understand that we haven’t only been commanded to love our neighbour as ourselves, but we have been called to love those who persecute us, and to pray for those who persecute and despitefully use us. More often than not we would seek to draw a dividing line between our enemies, and between our neighbors, and yet Jesus never draw any such distinction. Jesus never instructed us to treat our neighbor one way and our enemies another way, but actually instructed us to treat them the same way. Oh that we would recognize that we haven’t merely been called to love our neighbor as ourselves, but that we would love our enemies, and even show compassion on them, and pray for them. Within the fifth chapter of the gospel which was written by the apostle Matthew we find Jesus also speaking to the fact that we have heard how it hath been said “An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth,” thus speaking about vengeance and revenge. What Jesus then does is take this a step further and declare that we are to willingly and voluntarily allow ourselves to be defrauded, mistreated, and even wronged by others, and to not resist any such action toward and against us. There are far too many among us—myself included—who would seek to so guard themselves from being wronged, mistreated and defrauded, that they completely shut themselves off from others, and shut those around them out from within themselves. There are those among us—myself included—who in an attempt to so guard and protect themselves from being wronged and mistreated refuse to allow themselves to be open and vulnerable before those around them.
As you continue reading in Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, you will find Him taking this righteousness of the kingdom even further by comparing and contrasting it to the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees. In the opening verses of the sixth chapter we find Jesus speaking concerning alms or righteousness, as well as prayer and fasting. In verses one through four of the sixth chapter Jesus speaks of those who seek to do and perform their alms before men in order that they might be seen an noticed by others. Jesus instructs and warns us that we ought not to do our alms or righteousness before men to be seen of them, for if we do, we have no reward of our Father who is in heaven. When we perform our alms and our righteousness in the earth, we are not sound a trumpet before us as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets in order that they might receive glory of men. The righteousness of the kingdom is one which is a hidden and concealed righteousness which is not, cannot and must not be seen by men, but only by our Father who is in heaven. The same principle holds true when we pray, for when we pray, we are not to be as the hypocrites are who love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets that they might be seen of men. Such men and women who pray in order that they are heard and seen by men have already received their reward here on the earth and have absolutely no reward in heaven of the Father. What the righteousness of the kingdom teaches us is that when we pray we are to enter into our closets, and when we have shut the door, we are to pray unto our Father who sees in secret. Oh, I can’t help but wonder how many men and women enter into the house of the Lord in order that they might put on a show and put on a performance before others in order that they might appear outwardly righteous and pleasing in the sight of the living God. I can’t help but think about how more often than not the church and the house of God is nothing more than a stage whereby men and women parade and flaunt their own self-righteousness before others in order that they might be seen, heard and noticed. Such men and women even take their fasting, and disfigured themselves before others in order that they might appear to be fasting before others. I am absolutely and incredibly challenged by what I find and read in the opening portion of the sixth chapter of Matthew’s gospel concerning the life and ministry of Jesus, for within this passage of Scripture we find Jesus speaking concerning prayer, fasting, and alms, and how the righteousness of the kingdom seems to perform these three disciplines within our lives in the secret where it appears only before God and not man. Oh, how many of us seek to do and perform our righteousness in order that we might be seen, heard and noticed by those which are around us, as though their approval, their acceptance, their rewards are the only thing we seek after and desire.
The more I read and the more I study Jesus’ words in the Sermon on the Mount, the more I can’t help but think about and consider the fact that in the opening verses of the sixth chapter Jesus speaks concerning the rewards of men and a righteousness which appears only before men as set against and compared to the righteousness of the kingdom which is a hidden, concealed and secret righteousness. What I find in the sixth chapter of the New Testament gospel of Matthew is the righteousness of the kingdom which cares absolutely nothing concerning the rewards which come of men, and only that which is seen by God, and that which is rewarded by God. I can’t help but see the wonderful connection and correlation between those who seek rewards here on the earth of men, and those who would also seek to lay up for themselves treasures upon the earth. In the nineteenth verse of the sixth chapter of the gospel according to Matthew, Jesus instructs us to not lay up for ourselves treasures upon the earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal. Pay close attention to this as set against and in comparison with what Jesus spoke concerning those who perform their righteousness to be seen of men in order that they might receive rewards of men. There are those who would seek to perform their righteousness before men in order that they might receive rewards of men, and I would dare say that the same men and women who seek to perform their righteousness before men in order that they might be seen of men, and receive rewards of men, are the same ones who also lay up and store treasures for themselves upon the earth. Such individuals do not lay up treasures for themselves in heaven, where neither moth, nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal. There are those among us who lay up and store treasures here upon the earth, and as such are completely governed by the treasures of this world. Oh that we would not so naïve to think that it is not possible for us to seek after treasures here on the earth, and to pursue that which is temporary, fleeting, earthly, and natural. Jesus emphatically declares that where our treasure is, there will our heart be also, and if we truly understand these words, than it holds true that if our treasure is here on the earth among men, then our heart is here upon the earth. There is a righteousness of the kingdom which seeks after and pursues praise, affirmation, accolades and applaud of men, and a righteousness which seeks to be noticed by others. Jesus transitions from speaking concerning the righteousness of the kingdom and the rewards which come from above to the values of the kingdom, and that which we seek after and pursue within our hearts and lives. Beginning with the nineteenth verse of the sixth chapter Jesus speaks of laying up for ourselves treasures upon the earth, and by doing so, forfeiting our treasures and reward in heaven.
In verses nineteen through twenty-three of the sixth chapter we find Jesus speaking and declaring unto those before Him that they are to not lay up for themselves treasures upon the earth, but are to instead lay up for themselves treasures in heaven. Jesus would go on to declare that where our treasure is, there our heart would be also, thus suggesting that if we seek after and if we lay up for ourselves treasures her eon the earth, our heart will intrinsically and inevitably be tied to the earth and the things of the earth. If, however, our heart seeks after and desires treasures in heaven, our heart is no longer tied to the earth, but is tied to the things which are in heaven. Perhaps the single greatest question we must ask ourselves is whether or not we are allowing, and whether or not have allowed our heart to be tethered to the treasures of the earth. There would be those among us who have allowed their hearts to be tethered to the treasures of this world, and as such, spend all their time—not only seek to increase their treasures here on the earth, but they also spend their time seeking after those things here on the earth rather than the kingdom of God, and His righteousness. It’s worth noting that immediately after speaking concerning laying and storing up for ourselves treasures in heaven rather than on earth, Jesus transitions to making an emphatic declaration how no man can serve two masters, and how man cannot serve God and mammon. What’s more, is that Jesus would go on to speak concerning those whose hearts are so tied and tethered to the things of this world that they commit their entire lives to worrying about increasing such treasures on the earth, as well as pursuing and seeking after such things. Jesus instructs and cautions men and women to take no thought for their life, what they shall eat, or what they shall drink, nor for their body, what they shall put on. Jesus instructed those who stood before Him on this particular occasion to seek after one thing and one thing alone, and that was the kingdom of God and His righteousness. Jesus emphatically declares that those who seek after the kingdom of God, and His righteousness, shall have all these things which the Father knows they have need of added unto them. When first speaking concerning the righteousness of the kingdom and rewards from the Father in heaven, Jesus now transitions to the values of the kingdom, and that which we pursue on the regular within our lives. We are either those who seek after and pursue the things and treasures of this earth, and as such allow our hearts to be tethered to this earth, and inevitably pursue and chase after those things which the Father already has need to give us. What we find in this particular passage of Scripture is a wonderful and powerful declaration concerning those who allow their hearts to be tethered and tied to the earth by not only pursuing, but also laying up for themselves treasures here upon the earth rather than heaven.
I can’t help but be reminded of the words which the apostle Paul wrote in the first chapter of the epistle which was written and sent unto the church in Ephesus. In the opening chapter of the epistle which the apostle Paul wrote unto the Ephesian congregation we find the apostle writing and speaking concerning spiritual blessings which are found—not here on the earth, but in heaven where Jesus Christ is seated at the right hand of the Father. I leave you with the words which the apostle Paul wrote unto these dear and precious saints beginning with the third verse of the first chapter:
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ: according as He hath chosen us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love: having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasures of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, wherein He hath made us accepted in the beloved. In whom we have the redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace; wherein he hath abounded toward us in all wisdom and prudence; having made known unto us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasures which He hath purposed in Himself: that in the dispensation of the fulness of times he might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth; even in him: in whom also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestinated according to the purpose of him who worketh all things after the counsel of His own will: that we should be to the praise of His glory, who first trusted in Christ. In whom ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that Holy Spirit of promise, which is the earnest of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, unto the praise of His glory” (Ephesians 1:3-14).