People respond differently to difficult situations. There are those who confront tough tasks head on and find a way to work through them. Then, there are people who when faced with a tough task look for a way to avoid or escape it.
Jesus said a very hard thing in his Sermon of the Mount. He said, “For I say to you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven,” (Matthew 5:20 NASB). The scribes and Pharisees viewed themselves as the most upright people of their day. The really hard part of this statement is that we must exceed their righteousness or give up going to heaven.
A.T. Robertson in his “Word Pictures of the Greek New Testament,” wrote that our righteousness must “overflow like a river out of its banks and then Jesus says, ‘MORE.’”
Just doing better than the Pharisees when it came to righteousness wouldn’t be that difficult. Most of the righteousness the Pharisees exhibit was the “self” variety. But, having righteousness, or right doing, that overflows like a river out of its banks and MORE, well, that is a tall order.
“Impossible,” someone may say. Is it? Or is it just that we are reluctant to leave our comfort zones long enough to try?
“It can’t be done,” might be the next protest, the next way to avoid or escape the task. Can’t it?
Well, Jesus believed it could be done. In fact, Jesus never made a statement or gave a command that human beings could not accomplish.
In this case, doing what Jesus wants is going to take some effort changing our minds to think more like the Lord.
For the remainder of the fifth chapter of Matthew, Jesus repeats himself saying, “You have heard…” There were commands people had heard, and there had been traditions of the Pharisees they had heard, but the son of God told them that if we change our minds and conform our thoughts to his way of thinking, we can have the righteousness that exceeds.
Thoughts precede action. So, Jesus gives the means by which we can think his way and become people who exhibit the righteousness that exceeds.
All of us can do it. We just have to think before we act and learn to become more like Jesus.