“For I tell you, unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never get into the kingdom of heaven.
“You have heard that it was said to our ancestors, Do not murder, and whoever murders will be subject to judgment. But I tell you, everyone who is angry with his brother or sister will be subject to judgment. Whoever insults his brother or sister, will be subject to the court. Whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be subject to hellfire. So if you are offering your gift on the altar, and there you remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled with your brother or sister, and then come and offer your gift. Reach a settlement quickly with your adversary while you’re on the way with him to the court, or your adversary will hand you over to the judge, and the judge to the officer, and you will be thrown into prison. Truly I tell you, you will never get out of there until you have paid the last penny.” (Matthew 5:20–26 CSB)
The other day, I needed fresh lime juice, and my wife gave me a lime to cut. It looked good on the outside, but when I cut it open, I could get nothing out. The lime was dried up on the inside. I couldn’t tell by just looking at it. I needed to cut it open to find this out.
Our lives can be like that. We may perform what look like righteous deeds, but our hearts could be far from God – looking good on the outside but dried up on the inside. And like the lime, our outside appearance will be tested. We will get “cut open” by relational tension and the circumstances of life. When that is the case, what we are on the inside will be revealed. Dried up on the inside, our unrighteousness will not stay hidden. Limes are for opening, and people are for relationships. When opening a lime, one will see whether it is dry or full of juice. In relationship, one person will discover the righteousness of another.
In Matthew 5, Jesus teaches that righteousness is internal, not just a matter of doing but a state of the heart, of being. He says when one’s heart is in a state of righteousness, his or her relationships will be affected by that righteousness. Outbursts of anger that tear at and wound relationships are sin and reflect a heart misaligned with God. This is no small matter to God; it is so important to Him that God would prefer we be reconciled with someone who has an issue with us before we come before Him in worship.
Interestingly, Jesus prefaces this teaching by saying the righteousness of people who make it to heaven must surpass that of the Pharisees. He was teaching that the religious deeds of the Pharisees did not necessarily equate to the true righteousness of the heart.
May we meditate not just on the things we do to show our faithfulness to God but our inward thoughts, our motivations, and the state of our heart, as well as our relationships with others. How is the glory of God seen in His people through the way we relate to others?