Crosswalk The Devotional 29th August – What Does Your Righteousness Look Like?

Crosswalk The Devotional

TOPIC: What Does Your Righteousness Look Like?

SCRIPTURE:  Matthew 5:20

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.

By Clarence L. Haynes Jr. 

If there is one thing you can say about Jesus, he has a way with words. In this teaching on the sermon on the mount, he makes a statement that could only be seen as shocking. Especially when you consider who he is talking about. In those days, the Pharisees and the teachers of the law were the ones the people looked up to. They were the ones people were supposed to follow, and in one sentence, Jesus says, whatever they are doing, you must do better. 

Why was this such an important statement? To grasp this, you need to understand the nature of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law. This was not the only time Jesus ever mentioned their righteousness or the way they lived. He had a lot more to say. Here is one instance which relates well to what he said in this verse.

“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence.  Blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and dish, and then the outside also will be clean.” – Matthew 23:25-26

In this verse, Jesus identifies the problem with the righteousness of the Pharisees and teachers of the law. Their righteousness was outward only. It never went beyond the surface. They did a good job of making the outside look good because they looked the part. The problem was on the inside, they missed the part. In effect, what Jesus was saying is this type of righteousness is not righteousness at all therefore don’t practice it.

What is righteousness?
Before we go further and get to a personal application, let’s define the type of righteousness Jesus was referring to. There are two ways to look at this verse. In one context, the Pharisees and teachers of the law were attempting to gain righteousness through their own efforts. If you believe that is the way to righteousness, Jesus says it’s not. In another context, the righteousness Jesus was talking about emphasizes what you say in comparison to what you do. This is where I want to focus your attention. Look at what Jesus says in the previous verse.

“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.” – Matthew 5:19 (emphasis added)

The problem the Pharisees and teachers of the law had is they did not practice what they were teaching. Their righteousness was only superficial.

What does your righteousness look like?
This leads to a question to ponder in this moment. What does your righteousness look like? Consider what would happen if we were to pull back the curtain of your life. What would that reveal? Would there be a clean outside but a heart that was not? Hopefully, this is not the case. To be clear, ultimately, we are justified and made righteous through Christ. However, in this context, Jesus is also talking about your words and your actions. Is your outside truly a reflection of what is inside, or is it just for appearance’s sake? 

Jesus was trying to help his disciples see that the part of you no one sees is more important than the part of you that everyone sees because the part no one sees is who you really are. So how do your insides look, and who are you when it is just you and Jesus and no one else around? The way you answer that question will help determine if your righteousness exceeds that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law. 

As we search our hearts today, it is safe to say we all have areas where what we say and what we do don’t always align. This is why we ultimately depend on Jesus’ righteousness and not our own. But beyond that, we need to seek to be people who desire an outward life that reflects an inward transformation. When that becomes your heart’s desire, you are on your way to having a righteousness that exceeds the Pharisees and the teachers of the law.

Intersecting Faith and Life: 
“There are two sorts of hypocrites: ones that are deceived with their outward morality and external religion; and the others are those that are deceived with false discoveries and elevation; which often cry down works, and men’s own righteousness.” – Jonathan Edwards

Clarence L. Haynes Jr. is a speaker, Bible teacher, and co-founder of The Bible Study Club.  He is the author of The Pursuit of Purpose which will help you understand how God leads you into his will. He has also just released his new book The Pursuit of Victory: How To Conquer Your Greatest Challenges and Win In Your Christian Life. Do you want to go deeper in your walk with the Lord but can’t seem to overcome the stuff that keeps getting in the way? This book will teach you how to put the pieces together so you can live a victorious Christian life and finally become the man or woman of God that you truly desire to be. To learn more about his ministry please visit

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