In Matthew 4:23, we see Jesus teaching about the kingdom while healing those with diseases and disabilities. Great multitudes follow him to a mount where he begins to deliver a lesson we commonly call the Sermon on the Mount. Back in Matthew 4:23, the apostle calls this the gospel of the kingdom. One of the topics of this lesson is one of righteousness. What does it mean to live righteously in Jesus’ kingdom?
A Righteous Character
This topic begins in the Beatitudes when Jesus says, in verses 6 and 10:
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied…Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Around this statement, he is speaking of the character of the kingdom’s citizens. He goes on to speak of those citizens being lights onto the world, seasoning for the world. We are to enhance the lives of those around us with the quality of our character, and we are to illuminate the path to Jesus for all around us. When we put on Christ, we put on a hunger for righteousness. We put on humility, meekness, mercy. We become salt. We become light. Christianity is not merely about doing something new; it is about being something new.
Righteous As Christ Would Have
What is kingdom righteousness? We are familiar with the term “self-righteous,” a self-made standard of religiosity and righteousness we can use to look down upon others. It is comparative and self-assured. That is not righteous as Christ would have us. To illustrate this, compares the righteousness of his followers to that of the Pharisees in Matthew 5:20. Kingdom righteousness is not self-made. It demands denial of self. It demands a reverence for every command of God. It demands our hearts.
Hebrews 5:8 explains Jesus’ obedience in His suffering. Philippians 2:8 describes Jesus as obedient to the point of death. In Matthew 5:19, Jesus reminds us that, if we are to be citizens of the kingdom, we need to be as reverent of God’s will. This reverence begins in our hearts, and our actions and words reflect the contents of that heart. Our righteousness is not an outward appearance. It is an inward commitment.
In Matthew 5:20, Jesus reminds us of the scribes and Pharisees, for whom religion was an outward show. In Matthew 15:8 and Matthew 23:25-28, Jesus draws a contrast between inward and outward appearances. We can make a good show of religious living while being spiritually dead inside. If we are inwardly righteous, however, we will not be able to help but live righteously – not self righteously but righteous in Christ’s way.
Matthew 5:6 blesses those who hunger and thirst after righteousness. We hunger for so many distractions and priorities in this life. Is righteousness one of these priorities? Is it foremost among our desires? We are sensitive to the stomach-hunger of our bodies. We should be so sensitive to our God-starved spirits. He fills a void in our lives that nothing else can satisfy.
In order to enter God’s kingdom, we have to want it. In Matthew 6:33, Jesus calls on us to seek God’s kingdom and His righteousness before all else. It begins with our character. It begins with us being kingdom righteous.
lesson by Tim Smelser