“I tell you, unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will not enter into the Kingdom of heaven." Mt 5:50
Righteousness is a difficult word to get hold of in American English. Often confused with self righteousness, Americans think of righteous people as arrogant and dismissive of others, especially those they judge to be uneducated or of a lower class. Righteous people smile slyly when others make factual errors or grammatical mistakes in speech. Righteous people don't make great friends.
Righteousness in the bible is a virtue we need to build into our lives. Righteousness can be translated as doing justice, especially in our social relationships. When Jesus tells his disciples that their righteousness must surpass that of the Jewish leaders, he makes clear that no matter how needy they might be, they must not be greedy, but still treat others with compassion, understanding and justice. Cheating anyone, but especially foreigners or the very poor, will result in God's harsh judgement.
Though it would have been understandable for the first disciples to want vengeance against the Scribes and Pharisees because of how poorly they were treated, Jesus wants them to change the social paradigm which led to a society of winners and losers. In Christ all are winners because Christians will always share n justice whatever they have with the needy.
Today, ask God to heal you and heal those oppressed by injustice.
How might we better explain righteousness as a Gospel imperative?