One has often heard it said that righteousness did not matter, that it amounted to nothing and so on, but as it will be seen, this idea of regarding righteousness as not being important could only also have arisen with people who have woven a part of their own ideas into the religion, because this idea is clearly contradicted by Jesus Himself in His Words. His Words in Matthew 5. 20 that “….unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven” is clear enough.
Also further when He said in Matthew 5. 48 that ‘You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect’. Really one thinks that what matters most in all these, is for us to make up our minds whom to believe; the Master Himself and His Words, or His interpreters who, while the Master was still with them showed a great lack of understanding for His Words.
“You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect” is nothing more than a Commandment for us to make personal efforts to improve our personalities, our natures. To drop our faults and weaknesses and therefore to become perfect in being, in spirit, to make the effort, to exert ourselves in this regard.
Some of the Commandments which He gave in regard to this can be seen in Matthew 5. 43-47 where He said “You have heard it said to the men of old, ‘You shall love your neighbour and hate your enemies. But I say unto you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father Who is in Heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and the unjust. For if you love those who love you what reward have you? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you salute only your brethren, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same?’ and He completed this by saying ‘you therefore must be perfect as your heavenly Father is Perfect.”
The fact that this statement came after all the exhortations above shows that these are all the things we must do in order for us to become perfect and that these and more are the prerequisites to becoming perfect.
These are all exhortations to consciously strive to be good, consciously strive to do good works. Nothing of this points to a disregard of righteousness. Jesus went so far as to say in Matthew 5. 29-30 that “If your right eye causes you to sin, pluck it out and throw it away, it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away; it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body go to hell.” This is to stress the overwhelming importance of obeying the Laws of God, of consciously making a decision in one’s innermost being to follow His Commandments.
One does not find even one allusion to the fact that He could take the sins of mankind on Him or that His death would wash away the sins of men. On the contrary, what one finds in His Words are warnings and exhortations, exhortations about the urgency and importance of obeying the Laws of God. When He said that we should pluck out our eyes if they cause us to sin, what He meant was that we should obey the First Commandment utterly and without any reservations.
The First Commandment states “I am the Lord, thy God, thou shalt have no other gods but Me!” What this means is that whatever is perceived to be standing in the way of our fulfilling the Laws of God; whatever in the earthly sense is perceived to be more precious than the Worship of the Most High, must be ruthlessly uprooted and discarded. Nothing, no matter how precious to us, must be allowed to stand in the way of our fulfilment of what God demands of us.
There are many of these things, however, which we have raised to a position of extreme importance. Some of us regard money, family, wife, husband and so on as being more important than the Worship of God; these however are the eyes, the hands, that Jesus said must be cut off. Not that we should disregard these things, but they must not be placed in a position that should only be reserved for God. They must not be regarded as being so important as to prevent us from always thinking of His Will at all times, and if they present themselves as obstacles on the path to the recognition of God, then we have no other choice but to let these things go.
The reference by Jesus to this in His Words, His advice to pluck out eyes and cut off arms, if they are seen to be in the way of obeying the Laws stresses the absolute necessity of adhering to the Laws and shows that there is no other way to the proximity of the Creator. Where is then the room in all these for a sacrificial death and the carrying the burden of our sins on His shoulders? When He said in the Lord’s Prayer that “…. forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those that trespass against us”, He again stresses the importance of personal work in gaining Salvation; we must first make the effort to forgive our neighbours before we can be expected to be forgiven our sins by God.
The importance of this personal work or righteousness, which points to spiritual rather than earthly works is further explained to us by Jesus when He said in Matthew 6. 19-21 that “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust consume and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust consume and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” The treasures which Jesus refers to here, cannot be anything else but the results of our spiritual activity.
The treasures which He refers to are the fruits of righteousness; for if we do good spiritual works, and by these is meant good thoughts, good words and good deeds, the results of these activities would be a good harvest which first and foremost would be anchored in the Spiritual Realm, in Paradise. Since they are spiritual works, the results will first be anchored and seen in the Spiritual. This ensures our connection with the Spiritual and guarantees our entrance into the Kingdom of Heaven and He confirms this by saying that “our hearts will be where our treasures are.” Since all our thoughts are always directed to heaven we would be automatically attracted there after our deaths. These works, being spiritual are indestructible and that was why He said that moths and rusts would not be able to consume them. The laying down of these treasures by man shows the personal activity involved.
Man has to lay down these treasures personally for himself but he should lay them not on earth but in heaven. Now, the kind of treasures that one can lay in heaven can only be those treasures homogenous to heaven, can only be works which would be capable of ascending all the way to heaven. Since heaven is spiritual, these works would have to be of a spiritual nature. They would have to be spiritual seeds, which would yield spiritual harvests.
The difficulty most of us have with this word, righteousness, is in the wrong interpretation and perception by mankind. Most of us perceive being righteous to be like being arrogant, being “showy” about our faith or boasting about it. The problem is our faulty understanding of this word. It has nothing to do with being arrogant spiritually or trying to outdo our neighbours but in all simplicity, this word represent something that pertains to our relationship with the Creator, to how we stand in regard to Him, not in regard to our fellow men. To how we are seen by Him and to how we are regarded by His Laws. It does not stress human-to-human relationships. It has nothing to do with that. But through misunderstanding this word, we have come to disregard one of the most important anchors and lifebelts that could have been given to us by God on our paths towards the Luminous Heights.
So, righteousness is not the same as wanting to prove our worth spiritually before our fellow men. Jesus already spoke against this arrogance and conceit when He said in Matthew 6. 1 that “Beware of practising your piety before men in order to be seen by them; for then you will have no reward from your Father Who is in Heaven” or when He said in Matthew 6. 5-6 that “And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by men. Truly I say to you, they have received their rewards. But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father Who is in secret; and your Father Who is in secret will reward” and so much else.
Righteousness means the quality of being able to obey in every way the Laws of God, of being able to carry it into deeds. ‘Seek ye first the kingdom of His righteousness and all else shall be added’ once more emphasises the importance of personal effort. The fact that He used the word “seek” shows that the initiative must come from us. We have to be the ones to seek His Kingdom, not perhaps the other way round. We have to look for our Creator. We have to seek Him out. We have to keep our paths to Him clear and straight.
As for when He gave the Parable of the foolish virgins who did not make the effort to keep sufficient oil in their lamps and allowed their lamps to go out. He showed that he who makes no personal efforts as regards his salvation would be lost, the gate would be closed and would never be able to find a way in. This Parable powerfully demonstrates the consequences of indolence and the unwillingness to make personal efforts where one’s salvation is concerned. The Bridegroom, we must notice did not afterwards beg them, or look out for them, but He left them calmly alone to their fates because they did not demonstrate sufficient alertness of spirit to be able to recognise Him.
This Parable alone should awaken us to reality and make us see how stern and strict are the Laws of God. The Laws of God demand movement on the part of each individual as regards his salvation, otherwise he runs a great risk of being abandoned to the darkness. When He said in Matthew 7. 21-23 that “Not everyone who says to me ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the Kingdom of Heaven, but he who does the Will of my Father Who is in Heaven. On that day, many will say to me ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your Name, and cast out demons in your Name?’ And then will I declare to them ‘I never knew you, depart from me you evil doers”.
The strictness of the Laws of God can therefore be clearly seen from these Words of Jesus. Doing the Will of God is now seen to be the most important thing for us if we are to ascend. Doing what the Laws of God demands of us is what has been shown by Jesus our Saviour and Master to be of the utmost importance. Why then do we still want to argue? Why do we still have excuses? Why do we prefer to believe in those who have only interpreted His Words in a narrow way according to their own understanding? Not just believing, but converting our beliefs into deeds, into action. We must do it. These are the Words of the Master Himself. What arguments can anybody put against this?
In Matthew 7. 24-27 He said “Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them, will be like a wise man who built his house upon a rock; and the rains fell and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, but it did not fall, because it had been built on the rock. And every one who hears these words of mine and does not do them, will be like a foolish man, who built his upon the sand; and the rains fell and the floods came and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell; and great was the fall of it.” His Words here stresses ever again the absolute importance of personal effort.