Jesus in Matthew Chapter 5:
19. “Whoever then annuls one of the least of these commandments, and teaches others to do the same, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever keeps and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven. 20. “For I say to you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven.
These guys had the very Word of God, daily searched it and the scribes whole day job was scrupulously copying it. They had the essence of God’s Own Self-Revelation… but they did not walk in transformation.
This is one of the continual and all-too-often criticisms, yes, from agnostics, atheists and true Christ-followers alike of any sort of professing Christian, various denominations, associations of churches, independent churches, informal gatherings -and you and I. And often the charge of hypocrisy is accurate. Deny it all you wish but both church and world history after careful, thorough or even surface study reveals the truth of it!
Remember that these are Jesus’ Own Words to some of the key religious leaders of that time and place, not mere conjecture. And no, I honestly, before the Lord do not have any particular axes to grind about any church as such… but core truths motivate me to myself repent when there seems to be any verifiable truth I need to. In my case, daily.
Ok, so it seems at least part of the context of this text answers the question as to live out what Jesus considers practical right living in the here and now. I’ll list them in reverse because at least for most of us the second is FAR easier than the first: “but whoever keeps and teaches them…” As in (B.) TEACHES- “speaks, writes, shares the commandments and not mere options of the Lord and (duhhhh -A.) KEEPS- lives ’em out, does ’em, application.
I can hear many of my dear and truly Christian friends mind’s melting down about now… “HEY… CHRIST ALONE SAVES… ***NOT*** OUR GOOD WORKS BRO!!” Full agreement. But I don’t recognize Jesus offering anyone an escape clause here. John’s comments in 1 John 3.18 comes to mind- “Little children, let us not love with word or with tongue, but in deed and truth.”
Others will argue the kingdom of heaven and kingdom of God are not the same, or that the issue (I agree to an extent re. the text) isn’t getting inside the gates but rather one’s standing and position at the end. Neither postion annuls Jesus very Words on the issue.
CLEARLY Jesus Himself and the righteousness He graciously bestows upon faithful -followers- via His atoning incarnation, death, resurrection and more IS our only claim to salvation, but such texts that call us all out regarding if and how and what we daily choose, live out those choices with our minds, hearts, souls and strength (remind you of another thing Jesus said??) are obviously not unimportant to Him.To seek shelter in a storm or get soaked is often if not always a choice is it not?There are plenty of us who have gotten thoroughly soaked (and not by His Spirit) due to foolish, slack, self-seeking decisions that place us first, Jesus and our neighbors (“teaching others”?) far down the list of our love and focus.
I’m convinced these are things essential to consider as we choose our priorities, consider our own needs and those of others in the world around us.
As always, thanks for stopping by! -Glenn