Righteousness, The Pharisees, and You - Part 3
Part 3: What Is Wrong with the Pharisees & Scribes Righteousness
We can begin by taking just a little of what we know about the Pharisees from Christ’s own words also in the book of Matthew.
“Beware of practicing your righteousness before men to be noticed by them; otherwise you have no reward with your Father who is in heaven."
First, let’s note that being righteous seems to be something tangible, or at least, observable. This means that righteousness has to be something people can see; something more than simply believing right? This means that our righteousness cannot simply be defined through faith in Christ as it appears Paul may be saying in Romans 3:22. Our righteousness being tied to a visible action of obeying God’s law makes sense if it is something the Pharisees were doing to be seen by others.
Second, we know the Pharisees liked to make a public showing of how righteous/religious/devout they were. Based upon his words, it should be fairly obvious they were doing something wrong. What were they doing? They were practicing their righteousness in public in order to be noticed for it! Third, we also know they worked very hard to keep the letter of the law, but this wasn’t enough (see Matthew 23:23). They even went to the extent of making up their own laws and oral traditions! Unfortunately for them, their own traditions/doctrines were breaking God’s Law (Matthew 15:1-9).
Based upon the indicated verses, we can determine at least part of what was wrong with the Pharisees righteousness. They were doing actions in public to be noticed, they kept only to the letter of the law, and they even made up their own traditions which they valued more than God’s Law and actually tried to negate some of God’s Law. In applying our definition of righteousness, it would seem they should be righteous because they keep God’s law, yet at the same time, Christ is criticizing them for what they do. Does this mean Christ is saying don’t keep the law for righteousness? No! Christ is saying you have to do better than the Pharisees who do keep the law for their righteousness, but they are doing it the wrong way and believe their own oral laws and traditions were on par, or even above, the Creator's.