Prayer for the Day
I call with my whole heart; answer me, O LORD, that I may keep your statutes.
Scripture for the Day
“Abram believed God, and he credited it to him as righteousness.”
Many of us are struggling with what it means to live a righteous life. We look to the law in the scriptures, or the law of the land, we look for rules and checklists, in order to be able to tick the box of “righteous life.” But we never make it.
Part of the struggle we experience is made clear in the book of Matthew. Jesus speaks to the people around him in his famous “Sermon on the Mount” about all sorts of things, but he begins with an incredible list of “blesseds.” It’s easy to look at the blesseds as another checklist. But if we look closely at the list, and at the life of Abram and the life of Jesus, we’re struck by the fact that the checklist way of thinking will never yield a righteous life, just like the speed limit will never change my heart and make me want to be a responsible driver. Righteousness does not come from making sure we have followed our thousands of laws, or from our personal devotions, or from our own effort at all.
The blesseds (beatitudes) that Jesus speaks are not a list of attributes we SHOULD have. They’re a list of people who “fit” in the kingdom of God. He’s not saying that we have to be poor in spirit and then we’ll get the kingdom of God. He’s saying that the poor in spirit are the blessed ones in the kingdom of God. The blesseds are not really a call to certain kind of life as much as a description of the kingdom of Heaven. They give us a glimpse what the kingdom of Heaven looks like. It’s a place (not really geographical) where the meek, instead of being cast down like they are in the kingdom of the world, rule the earth. It flips everything on its head.
The story of Abram and the Sermon of Jesus connect us to the reality of righteousness. Righteous living does not reside in rules and checklists. It resides in the heart behind the law and the checklists. The righteous person, like Abram, will live by faith, believing that God will do what God has said God will do.
Jesus’ incomparable sermon is not a list of rules that will make us righteous; it is the sermon from the One who will make us righteous.