“For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.
(Matthew 5:20 ESV)
The Encyclopedia Britannica defines “post-modernism” as “a late 20th-century movement characterized by broad skepticism, subjectivism, or relativism; a general suspicion of reason”. A post-modern mindset rejects standards of truth outside oneself. Instead we define our own standards. As a result, we can never fall short of our concept of ideal.
Although the definition of post-modernism states that it is a movement associated with the late 20th-century, the Bible tells us that it has been around forever. It was the primary philosophy of the scribes and Pharisees in Jesus’ day.
These religious leaders replaced God’s standards (the Bible) with their own standards of righteousness that were easier to follow. They were easier to follow because they were behavior-based. The determination of righteousness was based one’s outward behavior.
The scribes and Pharisees were sure they were going to heaven because they kept all these outward rules. Rules that they themselves created.
In this verse Jesus tells His listeners (and us) that this is not the case. Jesus said keeping these rules would not gain anyone entry into the kingdom of heaven. This would have shocked those who heard Him. It shocks many people today.
The vast majority of people on this planet belong to a religion that teaches one can earn his/her way to heaven. They teach that God evaluates our behavior and if it is more good than bad (the exact percentage is never defined) then God is obligated to let them into heaven. The emphasis is entirely on the so-called goodness of man. God is reduced to a servile position controlled by His creation.
Every world religion teaches this: Catholicism, Hinduism, Islam, Mormonism. Each “ism” may have their own definition of heaven and their own set of rules to get there. But the overall premise is the same: we can “deserve” to go to heaven based on our behavior. The Bible tells us this is wrong.
God does not measure our righteousness by our behavior. He looks at our heart [1 Samuel 16:7; Luke 16:15 et. al]. The righteousness God wants must exceed any and all man-made definitions. It must be more than external. It must be internal. This internal righteousness begins with repentance and includes the characteristics Jesus’ defined in the Beatitudes [Matthew 5:3-12].
To be sure, external righteousness (doing good) is important. But it should be the result of internal righteousness [James 2:17]. It should not be something we feel obligated to do but something we want to do. Otherwise it is hypocrisy. And hypocrisy cannot substitute for holiness.
It’s interesting to note that God’s law was never meant to make anyone righteous because no one could keep it in its entirety [Romans 3:20; Galatians 2:16]. It is arrogant of man, therefore, to think he can create his own way of becoming righteous.
Post-modernism leads to nothing more than pride of self which leads to intolerance and judgmentalism of others. This is exactly what we see in our world today. Ironically, the philosophy the world has adopted for the apparent sake of making life better has just the opposite effect.
Comments? Questions? I’d love to hear from you. Please feel free to contact me about this post.