Therefore anyone who sets aside one of the least of these commands and teaches others accordingly will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven.
Matthew 5 : 19 – 20
Of all the shortcomings Jesus identified in the Pharisees he kept coming back to the gulf existing between their outward profession and inward commitment. They loved to be seen to pray long complicated prayers on the street corner. They demanded people conform to the smallest legal niche whilst all around them others went hungry. Characterised by legality rather than mercy, Jesus constantly called them out on it. For Jesus what you believed and how you lived were intimately linked.
This is why in the Sermon on Mount he emphasises the commands given were not teaching that results in understanding but teaching that underpins life lived a certain way. For his followers there was to be no disconnect between what they believed and how they lived. Nor was there to be an absence of mercy at the expense of law!
To demonstrate this he gives a glimpse of how God measures. If you live the life he calls us to, God will see that and consider you righteous. However, if you pick and choose which bits suit you, just like the Pharisees, then it is no good.
How do you measure your faith? Is it in knowledge or understanding or the way you live? How does your pattern of life reflect your Christianity? Never underestimate the need to constantly strive to make our Christian faith real!
Prayer: God it is hard to live the kind of life Jesus asked us to live. There are days when my actions are so different to my aspirations. I know what I want to do and I just don’t do it. Please don’t lose patience with me. Please help me to do better tomorrow, to find the courage to make a difference and to keep my practice and beliefs consistent.
Action: Keep a note tomorrow of the times when you are called to practice your faith and what you did in response.