For I say unto you, That except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 5:17-22)
What did Jesus mean? Since the Pharisees fasted twice a week, does He mean we have to fast three times a week? Since they paid tithes on everything, including spices, does He mean anyone who fails to tithe is doomed to hell? No, definitely not. The Pharisees’ righteousness was based on their actions. Jesus is advocating a righteousness that is based on faith in what He did for us.
Trusting in our own actions will never grant us access to God. We may be better than others, but who wants to be the best sinner in hell? We have all sinned and come short of perfection, which is what God requires. (Rom. 3:23.)
The only One who was ever good enough to earn right standing with God is Jesus. His righteousness is offered as a gift to anyone who will put his faith in Him as his Savior.
Jesus offers us a righteousness by faith that is so far superior to the self-righteousness that the Pharisees had, that there is no comparison. This is the righteousness that we need, and it is available to us only through faith in Christ.