“For I tell you that unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” Matthew 5:20
There is a question that has been heard from students throughout the hallways of history. It is a question that must test the emotional patience of teachers everywhere. The question is, “Will this be on the test?” Ideally the goal of learning is not simply making a good grade on the test. The goal of learning is…learning. But human nature being what it is, we fail to grasp what has true importance. I must admit to this inclination at times. I would remember more calculus than I presently do (which is approximately zero), if I had studied it with a curious eye rather than to pass the semester.
On the surface, Christianity appears to be this way. There are rules to be followed. There is a “test” at the end. We are judged according to our performance in certain areas. It can seem like just another school program, with teachers, students, and exams. We hope to do enough to get a passing grade. If we think of faith this way, however, we tend to ask, “What is the least I am required to do?” It is easier to put out less effort, if we know we can still get the needed passing grade.
But Christianity is not primarily like school. It is a relationship, with God and others. There is only one “test” for being in God’s family – faith in Jesus Christ. Once in God’s family, we are loved, nurtured, and guided. This does not mean there is no instruction and discipline. There certainly is. But it is a parent’s guidance for the good of their child.
Jesus said that our righteousness needed to exceed that of the scribes and Pharisees if we wanted to enter the kingdom of God. He meant that we needed to do more than just go through the motions. We needed more than just the outward appearance of goodness. We needed to be changed within.
The best and most lasting motivation for change is relationship. Why serve God? Because he loves us and we love him in return. It is a much better motivation than just trying to pass a test.
With Warm Regards,