“Unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven” Matthew 5:20
Such a statement would have come as a shock to the general Jewish populace who considered the Pharisees as perched atop the religious hierarchy. It certainly would have come as a shock to the Pharisees themselves, who took pride in looking down from there. These people spent all their time being righteous. They were scrupulous about this, and in so doing, they set the bar for everyone else. They were the righteous professionals. To disqualify them and everyone under them, as Jesus did, put righteousness out of everyone’s reach.
Which, of course, was the whole idea. This was not a statement to make people try harder to be holy. It was a statement to persuade people to give up trying. If Jesus was rejecting the best that the best could do, then who could possibly stand a chance of being good enough to get into heaven? No one. And isn’t that the point Jesus was trying to make? Only sinners get saved; only the lost can be found. The Pharisees were too good for heaven, too good for grace, too good for the gift of salvation.
True righteousness is something that can only come from Christ, and it comes through the admission of our own unrighteousness and a total dependence upon God to make us clean. What He wants is way beyond us and we cannot begin any real growth without realizing this. Our goodness comes through faith in what Christ has done for us on the cross in forgiving our sins and in giving us His Spirit. It is that Spirit that begins to work on our insides, changing us from the inside out, and the good that comes from this is so clearly outside our ability to manufacture it as to leave us as surprised as anyone.
I’ve often heard the objection to becoming a Christian on the grounds of Christianity being a crutch. I always laugh when I hear that because if that’s all faith is, I wouldn’t be a Christian either. Did Jesus endure a brutal death on a cross just so he could hand us a crutch to help us along? I don’t think so. We weren’t just stumbling along without Jesus; we were dead.
Christianity isn’t a crutch; it’s an iron lung. It’s a cure for cancer. It’s a heart transplant.
Question: Have you ever heard someone derisively refer to faith as “just a crutch“? How did you (or how can you) respond to such an accusation?
By John Fischer
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