19 Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.
20 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.
These are two extraordinary statements for Jesus to make, not that this is uncommon. He made many statements that defied the thinking of His day. Just image if He came back today and taught the very same message. Looking at a woman with lust is adultery? Over half of our clergy leaders are caught up in internet pornography by most surveys that are done. Every one of them is guilty of adultery in His eyes. If we carry offenses and don’t reconcile with our brother, He will not accept our offerings? There are so many people offended by something and changing churches all the time it is amazing. This is fracturing the church, and it is very easy to correct. Jesus would find today’s church disgusting, believe me. What would He say about your church? If you answered that he would find faults, what can you do about it?
How many of our pulpits are teaching contrary to Biblical commandments? If they say homosexuality is not a sin, they are guilty. If they are teaching that abortion is OK because it is a mother’s choice, they are guilty. If they are teaching you are saved under grace and can do your own thing now, they are guilty. The list could go on, but you get my point. Jesus does not say that these men will not enter the kingdom of heaven which is amazing to me. He merely says they will be the least in the kingdom of heaven. The ones who teach obedience to the commandments will be called the greatest. He once again is enforcing the Old Testament Commandments, not the letter of the law but the Spirit of the law. This is an extension on the previous lesson about the fact that He fulfilled the law. He did not abolish it.
If you have leaders who are teaching contrary to Scripture, it would be good to talk to them about this verse if you dare. They will most likely quarrel about how love conquers all and we must listen to the people in order to have more people come. I would answer that argument with “Really?”. So then it’s more important to listen to man than it is to listen to God? Imagine if Peter had felt that way in Acts. He would have stopped preaching right away! The church would never have developed because they were told to stop preaching about this Jesus. But Peter knew He should listen to God, not man. What is happening to church leadership today that they don’t even see the error in their logic? Have they been that blinded to the truth? I read an interesting post yesterday by Kingdom Pastor about the Methodist Church and the Simple Plan they might be looking at. This is a scary thing. You can find it Here if you want to read it. Our churches are turning their back on the truth to cater to man’s itching ears. It’s time to get back to the Word!
Verse 20 really must have rocked their socks! Their righteousness needs to be greater than the Pharisees? These men were seen as the epitome of righteousness. Long flowing robes of vibrant colors, praying in the streets, leading the worship and reading the scripture were the works of very spiritual men in the people’s eyes. No one dared question their authority. Until Jesus came along. Actually it started with John. He called them a brood of vipers, and asked them who had told them to flee from the coming wrath. It was like He knew Jesus would come against them. And Jesus did come against them in a powerful way. He refuted their thinking every time they questioned Him.
One time they came to Him with a coin and asked Him if the people should pay homage to Caesar or to God. They were trying to trap Him into choosing one or the other. But Jesus came back at them, asking who’s image was on the coin. They said Caesars. Jesus told them they should render to Caesar the things that are Caesars and to God the things that are God. Whose image are is on us? God’s! He was telling the Pharisees that they needed to render themselves to God, and all the people should as well. This was another amazing answer. (Mark 12:14-17)
Another time they came to Him asking what is the greatest commandment. Of course, Jesus replied correctly, but then added the second greatest which is Love they neighbor as thyself. They asked Him who their neighbor was and He told the story of the Good Samaritan. The Samaritan was the neighbor who was good to the stranger after religious leaders passed Him by. The Pharisees were reluctant to say the Samaritan, so they just said the one who showed mercy to him. This story got under their skin because the Jews hated the Samaritans. (Luke 10:25-37).
The diatribe of Woes to the Pharisees and Scribes is probably the best known of Jesus attacks on their righteousness. He really laid it on the line is this speech found in Matthew 23. It is long, but I want to put it here in case you haven’t read it in a while. Read slowly and carefully, there is a lot here. Pray the Holy Spirit will open your eyes to any of these things in your life or your church leaders lives.
23 Then spake Jesus to the multitude, and to his disciples,
2 Saying The scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat:
3 All therefore whatsoever they bid you observe, that observe and do; but do not ye after their works: for they say, and do not.
4 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.
5 But all their works they do for to be seen of men: they make broad their phylacteries, and enlarge the borders of their garments,
6 And love the uppermost rooms at feasts, and the chief seats in the synagogues,
7 And greetings in the markets, and to be called of men, Rabbi, Rabbi.
8 But be not ye called Rabbi: for one is your Master, even Christ; and all ye are brethren.
9 And call no man your father upon the earth: for one is your Father, which is in heaven.
10 Neither be ye called masters: for one is your Master, even Christ.
11 But he that is greatest among you shall be your servant.
12 And whosoever shall exalt himself shall be abased; and he that shall humble himself shall be exalted.
13 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.
14 Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye devour widows’ houses, and for a pretence make long prayer: therefore ye shall receive the greater damnation.
15 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.
16 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!
17 Ye fools and blind: for whether is greater, the gold, or the temple that sanctifieth the gold?
18 And, Whosoever shall swear by the altar, it is nothing; but whosoever sweareth by the gift that is upon it, he is guilty.
19 Ye fools and blind: for whether is greater, the gift, or the altar that sanctifieth the gift?
20 Whoso therefore shall swear by the altar, sweareth by it, and by all things thereon.
21 And whoso shall swear by the temple, sweareth by it, and by him that dwelleth therein.
22 And he that shall swear by heaven, sweareth by the throne of God, and by him that sitteth thereon.
23 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.
24 Ye blind guides, which strain at a gnat, and swallow a camel.
25 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.
26 Thou blind Pharisee, cleanse first that which is within the cup and platter, that the outside of them may be clean also.
27 Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye are like unto whited sepulchres, which indeed appear beautiful outward, but are within full of dead men’s bones, and of all uncleanness.
28 Even so ye also outwardly appear righteous unto men, but within ye are full of hypocrisy and iniquity.
29 Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! because ye build the tombs of the prophets, and garnish the sepulchres of the righteous,
30 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.
31 Wherefore ye be witnesses unto yourselves, that ye are the children of them which killed the prophets.
32 Fill ye up then the measure of your fathers.
33 Ye serpents, ye generation of vipers, how can ye escape the damnation of hell?
34 Wherefore, behold, I send unto you prophets, and wise men, and scribes: and some of them ye shall kill and crucify; and some of them shall ye scourge in your synagogues, and persecute them from city to city:
35 That upon you may come all the righteous blood shed upon the earth, from the blood of righteous Abel unto the blood of Zacharias son of Barachias, whom ye slew between the temple and the altar.
36 Verily I say unto you, All these things shall come upon this generation.
37 O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not!
38 Behold, your house is left unto you desolate.
39 For I say unto you, Ye shall not see me henceforth, till ye shall say, Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord.
Over and over, Jesus calls them hypocrites. They are not following the scripture. They are following their own rules and regulations ahead of the scripture. The commandments of God took a backseat to the whims of man. Oh, how this is parallel to today’s church. I can see Jesus saying the same type of things to the Methodist leaders conference, or the Assembly of God, of the Southern Baptist convention. Has your doctrine become more important than God’s Word? If it has, you are hypocrites! Our righteousness must exceed yours. Righteousness in this case is referring to doing the right thing according to the complete law, the spirit of the law.
Jesus turned His world upside down, and He would turn our churches upside down today. We all need to take a hard look at ourselves, me included, and ask God to try us and then mold us into His image. We need to ask Him to perfect us through the struggles and trials that we face. We need to be bold and approach our leaders if our church is not following Scriptural practices. We need to be more like Him, touching everyone who crosses our path. The one who showed mercy to the man was the one who fulfilled the second greatest commandment. I pray we are all the ones showing mercy every day.