Heart of the Matter
In Matthew 5:17-20. Jesus is speaking about the religious leaders of the day, the Scribes and the Pharisees. By all outward appearances, they are the most committed people to God. They were so committed they figured out that the Law of God had 613 laws and they added 1,521 amendments just to make sure they got it right.
These are people who, from the outside, would appear to be the most righteous, the most dedicated, and into such minutia about God so He wouldn’t be offended in any way. They would appear to be the most righteous people ever. Jesus said, “If your righteousness doesn’t exceed them you are not going to make it.” We read that and we think, “How can we be more righteous than the scribes and Pharisees because they’re the big deal?”
I’ve got good news! The righteousness of the Scribes and Pharisees was two things: It was self-righteous and it was shallow. It was self-righteous because it was about everything that they did, the way that they acted and how they fulfilled the letter of the Law of God. It was a righteousness that trusted in themselves. It was a righteousness that compared themselves with themselves and judged themselves based on how things worked out with other people. It was all about self.
It was also a shallow righteousness or superficial righteousness. It was a righteousness that didn’t go deep. It didn’t go one inch deeper than the written Law of God. Shallow righteousness had nothing to do with the spirit of the Law. It only had to do with the letter of the Law. They felt that as long as they kept the letter of the Law, which is the surface of the Law, they were righteous. They didn’t look deeper.
Jesus comes in on the Sermon on the Mount and blows up their whole world.
Jesus comes and begins to talk about the heart of the matter and the spirit of the Law. He tells us, “That’s what interests God.” He is not interested in self-righteousness or shallow righteousness. He has always been interested in what is our heart attitude is in the Law. He wants us to look away from ourselves and go deeper into the heart of the matter.
Where’s your heart? Are you trusting yourself and the letter of the law? Or, are you willing to trust God and develop His heart toward yourself and others?