Matthew 5:17, 20 – “Do not presume that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish, but to fulfill…20 For I say to you that unless your righteousness far surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven.”
I once began to edit a paper for one of my kids in which they had triple spaced their sentences with extra-large font to meet the page requirements set by the teacher. In the same way, the scribes and Pharisees in Jesus’ day were looking for ways to meet the law’s requirements while missing the heart of God’s intentions in giving it. Jesus would later say to them, “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you clean the outside of the cup and of the dish, but inside they are full of robbery and self-indulgence.” The word Jesus used for hypocrite means play-actor.
Jesus reminds us that God is looking at why we do what we do, and what is going on in our hearts and minds. Thus, Jesus tells His followers, ‘unless your righteousness surpasses the scribes and Pharisees, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven.’ Jesus is now about to launch into how to fulfill the law’s intentions that will enable His disciples to be the salt of the earth and the light of the world (V. 13, 14).
Salt was used as a preservative in Jesus’ day when there was no refrigeration. It was also something used to bring flavor. When Jesus’ disciples are fulfilling the beatitudes, as he is about to break down in everyday behavior, they become a preservative from cultural decay that causes others to want to taste and see the goodness of God. They become like a light in a dark place, showing others who God is and the way to eternal life. Jesus warns His disciples they need to stay close to Him so as not to lose their saltiness and their light and miss the purpose for His calling.
Heavenly Father, our Lord Jesus Christ, thank you for preserving our lives and adding flavor to them through the Holy Spirit and your saving grace. Search our hearts Lord and reveal to us any wrong motives and intentions that we need to deal with by your grace. Help us to shine bright for you today in all that we say and do in Jesus’ name we pray, Amen.