December 9

Text: Matthew 5:46-48

"For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax-gatherers do the same?  And if you greet your brothers only, what do you do more than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same?  Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”  (NASB)

Matthew saw in Jesus a person who understood the purpose of righteousness.  Many Christians consider righteousness to be a way to demonstrate human goodness and thereby to gain the approval of God.  Thus, “If I know what God wants me to do, I will do it and be okay with God.”

There are several short-sighted errors in this “me” centered concept of righteousness.

1.   It assumes godly righteousness can be achieved by human effort alone.  The result is a lot of unnecessary guilt.

2.   It assumes that a human can impress God through “a good enough” human effort.  The result is a hypocrisy that fools no one but the person who tries to impress God.

3.   It assumes genuine goodness can exist through human effort “if we try hard enough.”  Human goodness commonly exists by a human comparison to human badness, not to the “total absence of evil in any form.”

4.   It assumes the objective of righteousness is to gain divine approval by eliminating any influence of evil.  Thus, “I become good by not being bad.”

Jesus said we are to be attracted to righteousness because righteousness is the character of God.  He did that in two ways.  (1)  “Even people you consider to be the worst of humans (Jews who gathered Roman taxes from Jews) know how to love those who love them.   You know how to be kind to Jewish brothers.  Even people you consider godless know how to be kind to people who like them.”  (2) People who seek righteousness look at God as they pursue His behavior.  “If you aspire to spiritual maturity look to the spiritually mature One—God Himself.”

The core of righteousness is not about being better than bad people, but it is about moving in the direction of God’s character.

Suggestion for reflection: What is your objective in your righteous conduct?  (Read Psalm 14:1-3.)

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