“Unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:20)
Our situation as humans is pretty desperate, since being in debt to God leads to eternal death. If we want to escape this judgment, we need to get right with God again. We can’t “buy” forgiveness with money or sacrifices or anything else. The whole earth belongs to God already; He does not need anything from us.
We can’t compensate for our sins by leading extra righteous lives. Not even the religious elite in Jesus’ day could reach this goal, as today’s verse from Matthew 5 makes clear. By human standards, they were blameless. But Jesus compares them to “whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within are full of dead people’s bones and all uncleanness” (Matthew 23:27).
The prophet Isaiah says that even our good deeds are not pure (Isaiah 64:6). We are only making things worse by continually falling short of God’s standards. This is confirmed by the apostle Paul in his letter to the Romans, where he says that no human being will be justified by works of the law. The law just shows us how sinful we actually are.
The sobering conclusion is that we can’t get right with God ourselves. We need a solution “from outside”. Let’s read more about that tomorrow!