For I say unto you, That except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven. [simple_tooltip content=’17 “Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill. 18 For assuredly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled. 19 Whoever therefore breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever does and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven. 20 For I say to you, that unless your righteousness exceeds the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven. 21 “You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder, and whoever murders will be in danger of the judgment.’ 22 But I say to you that whoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment. And whoever says to his brother, ‘Raca!’ shall be in danger of the council. But whoever says, ‘You fool!’ shall be in danger of hell fire.’](Matthew 5:17-22)[/simple_tooltip]
What did Jesus mean? Since the Pharisees fasted twice a week, does He mean we have to fast three times a week? Since they paid tithes on everything, including spices, does He mean anyone who fails to tithe is doomed to hell? No, definitely not. The Pharisees’ righteousness was based on their actions. Jesus is advocating a righteousness that is based on faith in what He did for us.
Trusting in our own actions will never grant us access to God. We may be better than others, but who wants to be the best sinner in hell? We have all sinned and come short of perfection, which is what God requires. (Rom. 3:23.)
The only One who was ever good enough to earn right standing with God is Jesus. His righteousness is offered as a gift to anyone who will put his faith in Him as his Savior.
Jesus offers us a righteousness by faith that is so far superior to the self-righteousness that the Pharisees had, that there is no comparison. This is the righteousness that we need, and it is available to us only through faith in Christ.