Beyond “the Righteousness of the Scribes and Pharisees” – Part 1

Dallas Willard Part 5 of 9

This is one of Dallas’s most famous series on the kingdom of God, at Hollywood Presbyterian Church. He works historically but eventually works through the Sermon on the Mount and eventually speaks on themes of ministry, discipleship and disciplines.

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Suggested Outline of the Sermon on the Mount

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Dallas: Lord, stand with us this morning to be our teacher. Send your Holy Spirit into our midst to forcefully impress us with the wonderful words of life in your Kingdom. Stand with us. We depend on you. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.

Okay now, we are going to take up right where we left off and in order to do that let’s just look at Luke 6 a bit. We will come to the sheet in a moment.

Luke 6 . . . you notice that here Jesus not only gives the blesseds but the curseds. We don’t have a nice word like “beatitude.” These are maledictions, all right. These are maledictions. These are sayings of evil, sayings of bad things on you and note also the differing form. I don’t think that this is the same sermon. It has a similar context but the situation is different as you may notice from reading all of Luke 6. [1:27[1]]

If you wish, this is the Sermon on the Plain, as verse 17 says, “he came down with them, and stood on the plain.” (Luke 6:17, KJV) You have to remember in that country, plains and mountains aren’t what they are in southern California and that’s why I sometimes call the other one the Sermon on the Mound rather than the Sermon on the Mount because if you think, a mountain out here is Mt. Baldy (Mount San Antonio, highest peak of the San Gabriel Mountains in Los Angeles County, California).

So, this is on the plain and Jesus came down and stood and ministered to the multitude. Verse 19: “the whole multitude sought to touch him.” Now, you have to take seriously these kinds of teachings or you won’t understand many other things in the New Testament. [2:08]

For example, the great passage in John 7, where He says, “He that believeth on me . . . [out of] His belly”—his inner most parts—“shall flow rivers of living water.” (John 7:38 , KJV) What is the rivers of living water? It’s the life of the Kingdom. It’s the life of the Kingdom. It flows through people. Now, He didn’t say from their mouth shall flow rivers of living water, but from their belly and you have to think about that—the center of their being, which the mouth is often a long way from.

So, as they touched Him, and note, “there went out virtue,” there went out power—dunamis—“there went power out from Him and He healed them all.” (Luke 6:19, paraphrased[2]) You have to understand this group again—this is a group of needy miserable people, and it is to this group that He now says, “Blessed are you poor folks.” (Luke 6:20) You poor people are blessed because it’s just so wonderful in virtue and full of goodness to be poor. [3:25]

Is that why they are blessed? No, they are blessed because theirs “is the Kingdom of God”—theirs is the Kingdom of God. And remember the point about the Kingdom of Heaven is immediate and direct accessibility and that Matthew, drawing on the experience of the Jewish nation, uses that phrase to communicate the direct and immediate accessibility of God. Poor people can be blessed also because of that.

That’s why, you remember when John sent His disciples to ask if Jesus is the one, one of the things He said was right in there along with the lame are healed and the blind are made to see. He lists there good news for poor folks. And it wasn’t “they are going to hit it big.” It was, “they didn’t need to hit it big.” [4:27]

“Blessed are ye that hunger now.” (Luke 6:21, KJV) I think it’s difficult to say what the timing of this passage is, but it may be that Jesus ran in to people who wanted to spiritualize “blessed are they that hunger and thirst for righteousness sake.” So, He just says here, “Blessed are the hungry.” You can’t dodge that bullet. Blessed are the hungry. Blessed are people who are starving. [5:03]

“Blessed are ye that weep” (Luke 6:21, KJV) See, mourning can be so pretty. We mourn as a dove sitting—coo, coo, coo—this is weeping. Mourning was gut-wrenching grief—when you’ve lost your loved ones and your hopes are gone; that’s the people He is talking about. This is not a pretty list. And you see, if you don’t understand that, you can’t understand the Gospel because the Gospel is meant to reach these people.

Now, it isn’t meant to reach only them, but it’s meant to reach them. The Gospel is for the “up and ins” just as much as the “down and outs,” but not according to man because for man, there’s nothing for the “down and out” except to get on out and get on with it. [5:57]

“Blessed are ye, when men shall hate you” (Luke 6:22, KJV) . . . when they won’t have anything to do with you. They reproach you and cast out your name as evil. When they pronounce your name in that country, they would spit to clean out their mouth, having pronounced your name. That’s pretty graphic, isn’t it? Hmmm?

“ . . . for the son of man’s sake. Rejoice ye in that day, and leap for joy” (Luke 6:22–23, KJV) Now, Jesus adds the other note that is there’s going to be a Heaven. And by the way, nearly every time you see the word Heaven in these kinds of passages, it’s plural. But, you know, there wasn’t one Heaven for these folks, and it’s a part of the amazing capacity of translators to sort of suppress without meaning to. [7:03]

There were basically three Heavens. When you read, “Blessed are they, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven,” it’s in the plural. There is the Heaven, which is around us, the Heaven of the birds and the clouds, the one of which Satan is the prince of—he’s the prince of the power of the air. He’s ruling there; the prince of darkness, the prince of this age. Where is that Heaven? It’s right around your head. That’s where it is. It’s right around your head. Then there is the Heaven of the stars, which is above that. And above that is the Heaven of the angels, and in that was the Heaven of Heavens where God Himself dwells in His created world. All of that was created. [7:57]

When you read the first verse of the Bible, what does it say? “In the beginning, God created the” what? The Heavens. We just zip right on by that and get down to earth—the Heavens—most of what God created is in the Heavens. That’s the big part. That’s the big part.

So, the Heavens, now, refers to this presence of God—this great wonderful creation in which He has created both a receptacle for Himself and finally, down on earth, He has created a people to be a receptacle of Him, a temple of the living God. That’s the project and the angels sort of look at it and say, “What’s He doing?” The angels are all around; that’s part of the Kingdom of Heaven. [8:53]

Jesus said that when one person gets it right, the angels jump up and down for joy. That’s right; that’s what He said. They really are happy. You can imagine how they must feel about the rest of us and how they must look at this project that God has of creating a showpiece for eternity in His redeemed people—because that’s what it’s going to be.

The church will, throughout the ages, stand as the most outstanding testimony of the manifold wisdom of God and the angels can’t even figure it out yet. I don’t blame them. I can’t either. Can you? [9:52]

So, there‘s going to be a Heaven and I don’t want anything I’ve said to take that away. There is an afterlife. There is a fulfillment but that is not opposed to the presence of the Kingdom now. With Kingdoms in conflict, the reality of God is right here. Right here, right now and the Beatitudes say to anyone . . . all they have to do is call, “for whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.” (Romans 10:13, KJV) [10:30]

Now, look at the curses. “Woe unto you that are rich!” (Luke 6:24, KJV) Some of you had better head for the exit now. “ . . . for ye have received your consolation.” (Luke 6:24 , KJV) You’ve had your consolation. We will see later on in the Sermon on the Mount how Jesus uses that principle that was so important for understanding Pharisaical righteousness—that principle: you have received your reward. You have received your reward. If you live for a reward here, as the Pharisee did, you, for example, we will see how He said, “so you fasted and you made sure that you looked appropriately miserable and everyone noticed it and they said, ‘Wow, that person is religious.’ ” And so, He says, “Well, they have their reward.” They have their reward.

“Woe unto you that are full!” (Luke 6:25, KJV) You remember, we talked about Lazarus and Dives last time. You remember that Father Abraham said to Dives, “Well you in your life, you had good things. Lazarus had rough things.” “The first shall be last and the last shall be first.” (Matthew 20:16, KJV) Remember that? [11:58]

Now that’s the principle, “the first shall be last, the last shall be first.” That is the key to understanding Jesus’ Gospel. You have to watch everything He says and you have to understand that these are words to be taken seriously. We are not to say, “Oh another lovely word, master. Hmm… shall we set it to music?” That sort of thing, you know? We are to act. We are to do on the basis of that principle.

“Woe unto you that are rich!” For ye have received your consolation. “Woe unto you that are full for ye shall hunger. Woe unto you that laugh now! for you shall mourn and weep. Woe unto you, when all men speak well of you! for so did their fathers to the false prophets.” (Luke 6:25–26, KJV) [12:46]

Now, if you go down on the street here and get away from Hollywood Presbyterian, meet the average citizen, and say, “What are you struggling for in life?” You are going to get this list. I want to be happy. I want to be rich. I want to be full. I want to be popular. And when you have come to understand that that is the primary mind-set of the ordinary person who has not been touched and turned around by the life of the Word of the Kingdom, you will understand what it means to be dead in trespasses and in sins. That’s what runs this world is this false set of values of which Jesus is speaking of here.

He’s not giving a commandment here. There are no commands in the Beatitudes. Just look at the grammatical form. They are not imperative. They are statements. He’s not giving you conditions of blessedness so you would run right out and say, “Well now, I will weep this afternoon and I will mourn this afternoon and I’ll try to get somebody to hate me. This is my strategy, and I will be blessed because of that.” And He’s not saying, “Well, if you want to be blessed, don’t own anything. Don’t laugh.” [14:18]

You have to remember that Jesus teaches against prevailing assumptions—teachings—and this is not peculiar to Jesus alone. In fact, if you really want to teach someone anything, what you do is you get them to move until they’ve made mistakes; then you help them. You don’t step in and make it all right so they won’t make a mistake. The number one problem with most of our religion and the core of the Pharisee’s religion is the abhorrence of making mistakes. We want someone to get us fixed up where we will not make a mistake. Forget it! Forget it! [15:03]

I mean, you ought to know by now that the only alternative you have, if you adopt that policy, is whether you are going it fake it or not. I mean, just give up the project. In fact, everything is pretty well shot for you and for me. If we put it on that basis, we’ve already made enough mistakes that there is no hope, right? Well, you see, you are coming to the core of the Gospel here. You have people who simply have to be acknowledged as helpless and hopeless in their own right. [15:43]

What’s the real difference here? Is it that the poor folks are hopeless, helpless, and the rich folk aren’t? No! They are all hopeless. They are all helpless. One group thinks they are not or has at least got a strategy. They are not going to say, if this goes right and that goes right, something doesn’t happen in the stock market, if that investment in that movie comes through, and so on and so on. The truth of the matter is we are here for awhile. We have some choice as to what we are going to do, and then we are going to die, At the end of that period, what we will have as a result of our life is what we have done. And if we look at it in terms of ourselves, apart from the Kingdom of God, that’s all we will ever have. That’s all we will ever have.

These are not commands. They are not exclusions. They don’t say, “rich people can’t be saved.” Rich people can be saved. Poor people can be lost. The point is the prevailing assumption was that if you are rich, you are automatically blessed. Jesus says, “No.” If you are laughing, you must be well off; Jesus says, “No.” If you are poor, you must be in terrible trouble. Jesus says, “No.” If you are meek and shy, and you’ve got nothing, you must be in real trouble. “No,” Jesus says, “You inherit the earth.” (Matthew 5:5) “The earth is the Lord’s, and the fullness thereof.” (1 Corinthians 10:16, KJV) So, if you are in the Kingdom, the earth is yours. [17:31]

Your problem is as you come to that as a human being is you weren’t raised to believe that, were you? I mean, even if you were raised in a church, you were probably not raised to believe that. You were raised probably to take your own life in your hands, run faster than everyone else, act smarter than everybody else, do unto others before they do unto you. What was that thing Ted Turner said the other night about his advice to his children? “Early to bed, early to rise, work like hell, and advertise.”[3] See? That’s the wisdom of the world. That’s how we were raised, right? [18:29]

Any of you remember Pete Seegar? Pete Seegar has a wonderful story about the two worms that were on the workman’s shovel when he pulled it out of the work shed and took off down the road. One worm fell off and fell into a crack in the cement. The other one fell off and fell into a dead cat; and a day or so later, the one that fell in the dead cat, was wobbling along just as the other guy, just almost dead, managed to get out of the crack and the worm that fell in the crack said to the fat worm, to what do you attribute your success in life? And the fat worm, replied, “brains and personality.” Isn’t that the way it goes? That’s the way it goes—brains and personality. Okay. [19:28]

Now, let me just tell you. Do you know what Jesus is saying here is nothing new? Ever read the 23rd Psalm?

“The Lord Is my shepherd; I shall not want. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters. He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me.” (verse 1–4a)

What is that? That’s the Kingdom of Heaven. That’s all it is. [20:04]

“thou art with me: thy rod and thy staff they comfort me, [Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.] Surely goodness and mercy just follow me all the days of my life:” (verse 4b–6b)

—His goodness and His mercy—

“and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.” (Psalm 23:1–6, KJV)

Jesus wasn’t saying anything new. Why was it necessary to say it? It was necessary to say it because the people in charge of the religion of Israel had redefined righteousness to fit man’s order. [20:42]

If you look at the sheet now, you will see here, Jesus’ inversion of blessedness—blessed’s and cursed’s—flew in the face of those in charge of the religion of Israel. The Scribes and the Pharisees brought the common people under the influence of this teaching and the effect was to crush them—to crush them. That whole list—the uneducated, the people who weren’t smart, who didn’t make the right contacts, get the fellowships, go to the university or the seminary, get to study with Dr. Dry as Dust, and come out with a credential—a credential—how will they ever get over this? [21:48]

See, they had succeeded in identifying God’s order—the Law and the Prophets—with man’s order and Jesus. Now, there is a theme here that I quote from Mark that Jesus strikes over and over again: teaching for the doctrine that is of God, the commandments of men, making the word of God of none effect through your traditions. (see Matthew 15:9, 6.)

The tradition had taken the wonderful, precious teachings of the Old Testament, which we talked about a couple of weeks ago . . . those wonderful teachings that came to the Jewish nation and frankly, they cannot be improved upon, [and made them of none effect]. [22:37] [By the way, you know, I cover about a fifth of what’s on these sheets but if you really want to get into it, you have to dig into it that way.]

Jesus did not really teach anything new except something about the person of God which people should already have known. That’s why He gave Nicodemus such a bad time as we talked about the other day. Nicodemus should have known all of this, but he didn’t have the foggiest notion, because he was caught up in the tradition—the tradition.

Now, my friend, you and I must keep alive that question. To what extent am I in bondage to traditions that keep me from knowing “the Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.” Tradition is important. Human life cannot exist without it, but it can be wrong. It can be deadly. And the people of, the leaders in Israel [were] relying on their own efforts in order to manage Israel as the people of God. And no doubt, they meant very well by it. They felt the weight of responsibility, but they did not know how to take that from God and minister from God, So they took it upon themselves and in order to make it work as a human enterprise, they had to re-invert the teachings of God, so that the human values became dominant in their own religion. [24:16]

Now, look at Matthew 5 again with me now. When he had given this list of blesseds, He culminates it by topping it off with this general statement about the people that He had conveyed this to. Look at verse 13—“You are the salt of the earth.” You are the salt of the earth. “Watch out because if the salt has lost its savor, you can’t salt it again.” (Matthew 6:13)

You have to understand that what they called salt then was not what we call salt now. What they called salt then was basically a limestone that had salt in it and if you left that out, even the atmosphere—and certainly if there was any moisture—would leech the salt out and just leave the limestone. Do you understand what I mean? [25:44]

It’s a little hard for us to read this because, like so many other things, salt is not what it used to be, shall we say? And if your salt is gone, there is nothing left. You take your table salt; if it’s gone, it’s gone. That’s because it is basically pure salt. So you have to understand that. Salt can lose its savor in that day and when it lost its savor, you couldn’t put the savor back in it. It was only good for making walkways and for mollifying the manure pile because it was lime. Do you understand what I mean? You could still make a kind of gravel walkway with it, and you could use it for to make the manure piles smell better and go away.

And that’s what Jesus says in other passages. If you will remember, He says, “Hence, it’s good for nothing to be cast out and be trodden on to make a pathway.” (Matthew 5:13) Or He says, “to mollify the manure heap.” (Luke 14:34–35) [26:46]

You are the light of the world. You are the light of the world. Who’s the light of the world? These “lasts” who shall be first. I am the light of the world—these people that are not taught to be the light of the world. These grubs, these cockroaches, these cast-offs, these, you know?

Now, of all of the things, I find it most difficult to do, it is to get people to accept this verse in the Gospel that you are the light of the world. Oh—Jesus is the light of the world, too isn’t He? That’s right and He says that you are the light of the world. Now what does it mean? You are the salt of the earth. [27:44]

It means that you are uniquely traversing a space-time pattern and no one else is going to be there. This is your day. There have been many people before you; there may be many after you. This is your day. You are sitting right there in a particular chair and if the light of the world is going to be here in that chair, you are it. You are it! God Almighty is not going to take your place. He made you to have that place. You are invited to be the light of the world.

You say, “I’ve got no light.” It was never intended that the light should be yours. You are the lamp. The light is to burn in you to make you the light of the world. Don’t despise your position. The greatest thing that will keep you from receiving the Kingdom of Heaven is your own despising and despairing over who you are and where you are. You can never receive the Kingdom except where you are. And if you are going to throw you away, then that will be the ultimate act of unfaith on your part. [29:16]

Most people live with the sense that they are not going to be blessed. They can give you many reasons why they are not going to be blessed. You need to practice that. You need to practice three minutes a day in front of the mirror looking at the person in the mirror and saying, “You are the light of the world. You are the salt of the earth.” And I know from experience that if many of you try it, you will not be able to do it. Some people laugh when they try it; some people cry when they try it. We are light. This is the Gospel, my friend. This is the Gospel. You are the light of the world.

God will give you a light; men don’t light a candle and put it under a bushel. Who sent you into this world? At whose charge are you here? Were you an accident or something? See, many folks believe they were. Maybe their parents told them they were or perhaps treated them like they wish they hadn’t come—made them unwelcome. See? [30:46]

Now, you see we are really down to it. Did God send you here or not? I want you to think about this now! There are no unwanted children in God’s eyes. None! Now, you say, you just left me altogether, because think of all the poor starving things that are dying. Think of all those little babies in Romania that are dying of AIDS. You’ve seen them on the television. Whether or not you are going to believe this is going to affect your whole life, because if you don’t believe that the angels of God have those little babies in [their] charge and is going to see to them, you won’t believe He has you in [their] charge. Men don’t light a candle. You are a light. You were sent into this world.

I teach here and there. In the universities, I teach a lecture and am constantly looking out at the faces of young people who are lost in the most profound of senses because they don’t know why they are here. And basically the ones that usually impress us most as professors are the ones who are trying hardest to prove that they deserve to be here. [32:26]

We are here because of the creative grace of God; God who, in His infinite splendor and energy, spun worlds into space and produced you. You! So all the people that have come down the track and looked at you and said, “Why, you twit, you fool!” We are going to look at that in a moment. Now, you have to understand the setting. “Let your light so shine before men that they see your good works and say, ‘Boy you’re wonderful. Are you ever wonderful?’ ” Mmmm! (See Matthew 5:16)

You know what it is to glorify God? It’s to live in such a way that when people know you, they say, “Thank God for God. Thank God for God! God is so good!” They may not even pin a button on you. That’s to glorify God. To magnify God is to make Him appear great. That’s what it is to magnify anything, isn’t it? It’s to make it appear great. So, we magnify God when we live in such a way that it always means abandonment to His Kingdom and it always comes in the form of powers that are given to us in that relationship which makes people say, “God is good.” The real issue in the mind of every person is “Is there a God and is He good? Does He care about me? Can I turn loose and trust Him?” [34:19]

When we lived in Wisconsin, we had a half-Siamese cat. And you know Siamese cats often don’t have reverse gears. This cat climbed up a tree once across the street. There they had these huge oaks and elms. It was dark and when the cat got up there, a screech owl got after it and it couldn’t go back. Of course, the cat was too high to go down head first and it decided its claws didn’t work well in that direction—a little engineering problem. So this cat was over there, hollering in the top of that big tree. I had to go over and get a ladder—and I should have taken a chisel with me. I had to pry that cat loose from that tree, and when it turned loose of the tree, it took hold of me just like it had hold of the tree. Now, that’s the way a lot of us are. That’s the way we are looking at life. We are just like that cat, you see? That’s why Jesus is always going around saying, “Fear not. Fear not. Fear not. Fear not. Fear not.” Everybody is scared.

Someone said that there is one “fear not” in the Bible for every day of the year—365 of them. I haven’t counted them but probably, that wouldn’t be enough. You have been sent into this world and the only question is whether or not you are going to be able to turn loose and trust God. Or are you going to try to make it on your own? [36:03]

You have to settle it. At whose charge are you here? You are meant to be a light where you are. Light comes in the form of love and truth and power. That’s light. In the New Testament, light is love and truth and power, in that order. Will you mind the order, please? You can’t stand the truth until you’ve had love, and unless you’ve got both of them, God help everyone if you’ve got any power. That’s what light is. You are put here to love and to live in truth and to know the truth and to exercise power—the power of the Kingdom. [Okay, we are not getting very far today.]

Now, why do you suppose Jesus said, “Don’t think I’m come to destroy the lost.” (Luke 9: 56) Why do you think He said that? Because there are a lot of people sitting around there thinking this guy has come to destroy the lost. That’s why He said that. Why would they think that? Because He had taken all these people that were supposed to be out of it and said, “You are the light of the world.” And those who thought they knew what the law and the prophets were about, they didn’t think that. They had everyone convinced that these people were certainly not the light of the world. [37:43]

What do you have to do to get to be the light of the world? Well, you always have to go to school to get to be the light of the world. You see, the Scribes and the Pharisees had redefined it basically in terms of appearing in a certain way. And they had redefined it in terms of external actions. If you’ve got enough money and you’ve got enough well-placed friends, you can probably look pretty good, but it’s expensive. If you don’t have money and friends, you probably can’t look good. So, you see, these people didn’t look good. [38:35]

Have you ever looked at people that come for healing? They don’t look good. They don’t sound good. Couldn’t possibly be good. We are apt to hear something at this point about let all things be done decently and in order. Well, that’s scriptural, isn’t it? But I’ll tell you, if that’s the bottom line—as it often is—if our religion is a matter of being nice—as it often is—we are not going to come in contact with the Kingdom of Heaven. That’s exactly what Jesus said. He said, “I didn’t come to destroy the law and the prophets. I came to show you how you could get in contact with something, which would enable you to fulfill the law and the prophets without a lot of money and without a lot of friends. (Matthew 5:17) [39:37]

Now, read this verse for me or with me—Matthew 5:20—and think about it carefully now in the light of what I’ve said. “For I say unto you, That unless your righteousness goes beyond the righteousness of the Scribes and the Pharisees, you will not enter the Kingdom of Heaven.”

Now, remember, to enter the Kingdom of Heaven means to come under the conscious interaction and rule of God. That’s what it means. You enter the “kingdom” of the United States by going through a process by which you become a citizen. There is a process through which you become a citizen of the Kingdom of Heaven. It is a process of responding in faith and trust to the word which Jesus brought about Himself and God and God’s Kingdom. What was that word? That word was “Come right in. Walk right in. It’s here. Trust it.” [40:49]

Now you will have some learning to do when you start because you are set to trust everything but that but this is how we start. Unless we go beyond the righteousness of the Scribes and the Pharisees, we cannot make contact with—we cannot enter into the rule of Heaven. You can’t do it! Now, you see there is a big battle here in our minds and there’s a big battle that Jesus is addressing about how we are going to think about being okay.

Now, in your sheet—this word, dikaiosynē. I have used the street language—“okayness.” I’ve come to learn that, because the word dikaiosynē was a simple term in Greek ethics for centuries before Jesus came. Some of you will be familiar with Plato’s Republic and you may know that in English, it’s set up as a discussion about justice—the word there is dikaiosynē. dikaiosynē! And really, it is a question: What makes people really okay? What makes God okay? What is the righteousness of God? [42:10]

You’ll read in the next chapter—you’ve already read it no doubt many times—“Seek ye first the Kingdom of God and His dikaiosynē.” (Matthew 6:33) The kind of “okayness” God has. See, that was revealed in the Gospel. It was revealed in the person of Jesus. That revelation was consummated in the death of Jesus for us, and His resurrection in the Kingdom. Dikaiosynē: what is the “okayness” of the Pharisee?

Let me skip on here to point V on the outline. What are the marks of S&P righteousness? I’ve given a lot of references here [and I won’t study them today because we simply don’t have time but I will list them.] First of all, that kind of rightfulness seeks the honor that comes from men and not from God. It brings bondage to appearance and to the opinions of others and to self-justification. Bondage. [I’m sorry to say that should be Luke 16:15 there instead of John 16:15 so please correct that [corrected]; and I’m afraid there may be some other mistakes in here but basically I think it will give you the right guidance.] [43:56]

Thirdly, the righteousness of the Scribes and the Pharisees is one, which says and does not. Remember, Jesus said, “Do what they tell you, but don’t do what they do. Do what they tell you but don’t do what they do.” (Matthew 23:3) It murders then a good cause; it is murderous righteousness.

There was a book published some time back by Maria Anne Hirschmann called Please Don’t Shoot!, I’m Already Wounded. There is a real sense in which the righteousness of the Scribes and the Pharisees was geared to external appearance and manipulation, of how to make of one’s way through the world. Basically the righteousness of the Scribes and the Pharisees is the righteousness defined by a person who is engineering their way through the world of religion. And if you get in their way, they will find it quite appropriate to kill as they did Jesus. Jesus was killed by this kind of righteousness. [45:00]

Fifthly, it keeps people out of the Kingdom of God and turns its converts into twofold more the child of hell than the S&P’s themselves are. (Matthew 23:15) Jesus said, “You lawyers”—lawyers are basically Scribes in this context—“you’ve got the key to knowledge and you won’t go in and you won’t let others go in.” (Luke 11:52) He said to the Scribes and the Pharisees, “You compass land and sea”—you go around the world—“to make one convert and when you’ve got him, you make him twofold more the child of hell than you yourselves are.” (Matthew 23:15) [45:39]

Most people, I think have never heard words like that from Jesus. They think how could gentle Jesus, sweet and mild, say a thing like that? Listen, you read Luke 11 and Matthew 23—you will get a new view of Jesus. He said it because, precisely because, this is a righteousness that damns, that kills. It is covetous and wealth seeking.

It fits in the paradigm, because what we are dealing with here are basically engineers. If you are going to engineer your way through the world of anything, you are going to need money. It is hard to look good without money. It is hard to look good without money[—even smell good—have you priced perfume lately?] [46:36]

Seventh, “it trusts in itself that it is righteous, and despiseth and condemns others.” (Luke 18:9) But most especially, it defines “okayness” in terms of externals. It cleans the outside of the cup and the plate, but your inward part is full of ravening and wickedness. (Matthew 23:25)

All right now, if you are going to understand Jesus’ teachings, you have to understand then that there are two ways of attempting to be okay before God. One way is defined in terms of external actions. This is not an accident that it is defined in terms of external actions, because your external actions are what you have a shot at controlling. Now, in fact, you won’t be able to control it entirely. There will always be a moment when what is in the heart pours forth. There will always be the moment. There will be a word. There will be an attitude that will come out. [47:58]

Jesus said that your idol words will condemn you. (Matthew 12:37) And now there have been many generations of Christians who came out against idol words on that basis, which was not Jesus’ point at all. His point is simply that you can do pretty good with Pharisaical righteousness until some moment when you are not on guard. Then there will move out from within you that greedy, that lustful, that fearful, that crowd attitude that is in there, and it will come when you are not on guard. See, that’s the thing. You cannot live on guard.

Napoleon, in one of his campaigns was faced with a rebellious city and he thought he would take Draconian measures, as we say, to suppress them. But one of his generals said to him, “Sir, [you can build a throne of bayonets, but ]you cannot sit on bayonets [for long].” To try to live by the righteousness of the Scribes and the Pharisees is like trying to live sitting on bayonets. You can’t do it. [49:27]

So now, as you look at the teaching of Jesus, coming up now in the Matthew 5, you are going to see him contrasting two kinds of righteousness: one that has life and the other that has death; one that renews the heart and one that kills you because it’s tied to external actions.

If you look back at point IV on the outline, only trusting the King and the Kingdom transforms the heart making the kind of rightness or “okayness” God has, the kind we have. See, that’s what we are told to do. When we are told to seek first the rule of God and His righteousness. We are told to make His kind of rightness, our kind of rightness. That is the rightness of love. [50:23]

Now, we can’t get to love without faith, because we are scared to death of people we should be loving. Now, there is an inverse relationship between love and fear. You will know the verse—“perfect love casts out fear.” (1 John 4:18) Imperfect fear casts out love. When most people—most Christians—experience failure to love, they do so because of fear, almost 100 percent of the time.

People who are not Christians or who are just caught up in the world of death that is outside of the redemptive community, they don’t need a reason. They don’t need a reason to not love. That’s just what their life is. But, those who have, sort of heard the message, and they’ve come in, they know they should love nearly always. It is because of fear that they are unable to love. [51:23]

If someone scares you, you are going to have a real challenge to love them. I remember the other day I was at one of these hardware places where builders come in. Builders often have some big dog in their truck. Some fellow had just walked by the truck with one of these big dogs in the seat. The window was down a little bit, and that dog lunged at him and barked. The man came into the store and yelled, “Who owns that truck? I want to kill him!” What had happened to him? He just got scared, that’s all. A natural response to being scared is to hate—to hate. There are other reasons for hating too, but I think that’s probably one of the main reasons: people just get scared. They are scared to death. They don’t trust. It’s trusting that puts us in touch with the Kingdom. [52:23]

If you don’t understand that—the rest of what Jesus says . . . Because now we do come to commands, folks. We have been looking at statements about the way it is, and when you read Jesus’ teachings, be sure to look at the grammatical form. Don’t turn His indicative statements into commands, because one of Jesus’ main ways of teaching is just to tell you how things are and let you think on them now.

Here you are—“Blessed are the poor in spirit.” Think on that. Right. Figure it out and when you come to it, you’ll have it. If He just told you, you wouldn’t have the chance to come to it and so, you’d have to write it down and say, now, write that one hundred times and maybe I’ll be able to remember it day after tomorrow. That’s why He doesn’t teach that way. He gives you something you won’t have to write down. You will remember it because that’s the way it hits your mind. Now, you will think about it and who knows? If you really want to know the truth, probably you’ll come to it and when you come to it, it will be a part of your sinews, and your bones and your gut and you won’t have to sort of hang on to it—so, that’s the way He teaches. [53:35]

And now He comes to commands. Let’s look at some of these commands. Matthew 5—now always, you will see here the contrast between the two ways, and usually He identifies it as “you have heard.” That’s the old way. “You have heard.”

“You have heard that it has been said by them of old time, Thou shalt not kill; and whosoever shall kill shall be in danger of the judgment: But I say unto you, that whoever says, whoever is angry with his brother without cause shall be in danger of the judgment. “ (Matthew 5:21-22 Paraphrased)

You don’t have to kill to be in danger of the judgment. What is killing? It is an external action. What is being angry without a cause? Well, very often, it’s no action at all. It’s just an attitude? [54:34]

But let’s get closer here.

“Whoseover shall say to his brother, ‘you twit’ . . .”

[Laughter] You twit—what’s a twit? You twerp.

“Whosoever shall say to his brother, ‘you twit,’ shall be danger of the counsel: and whoever says, ‘you fool,’ shall be in danger of hell fire.” (Matthew 5:22) [55:06]

My grandmother was a real serious lady—one of the most Christian people I’ve ever known in my life. She taught me you never call anybody a fool, and I thought Well, I can think it. See, I’m a natural Pharisee, a natural born Pharisee. I can think it just as long as I don’t do it.

Now, Jesus goes more deeply, because in this He was not really going beyond the rabbis. Before long they had taught these very things and you can trace these very sayings that I have just read in the Rabbinical literature and now He says,

“If you bring your gift to the altar, and remember that your brother has ought against you: Leave your gift before the altar and go your way.” (Matthew 5:23-24 Paraphrased)

In other words, don’t let your religion prevent you from doing a loving thing. The Jewish people had been into that for centuries. The prophets had laced their backs with the whips of bittered enunciation because they had tried to substitute ritual righteousness for real righteousness of the heart. Just leave your offering. When we get to church, start to go in and think, Someone—so and so is mad at me. What Jesus is saying is don’t go to church that day. Go visit him. Do you understand what I am saying? It’s more important for you to go visit them than it is for you to go to church. [56:55]

If Lloyd has a small congregation, then we’ll know[Laughter]

“Agree with your adversary quickly, while you are in the way with him; lest at any time your adversary puts you into the system of legal procedures, and you get delivered to the judge and the judge deliver you to the officer and you get cast into prison and then you are stuck.” (Matthew 5:25)

What He is saying is, “You buy that system; you’ve bought it.” There is not going to be any mercy in that system. Stay in the system of mercy. See? [57:53]

Arthur Hugh Clough, the English poet of the nineteenth century, had a wonderful rephrasing of many of the commands in the spirit actually of Jesus’ teachings and one of them is, “Thou shalt not kill but needest not strive auspiciously to keep alive.” That’s the way it’s understood, isn’t it?

The priest who walked by the Samaritan with his head bloodied, or the fellow who fell among the thieves with his head bloodied. He didn’t kill him did he? Now you say, “Oh, no! You mean I can’t ever hold my own in a legal matter?” Well, what Jesus is saying is it’s going to be up to you to define what “holding your own” means. You sure don’t want to go at it with the idea that this legal procedure—and I know many of you are involved in legal procedures; it couldn’t be otherwise in our society today—but if you go at it in the attitude that you’ve got to win this or your life is ruined, you are already ruined. [59:15]

You may win, and it may be the worse thing that ever happened to you. You’ve got to get outside of that system. Should you never go to the law? Probably you should sometimes. What most people do is not wrong. The attitude in which they do it is deadly wrong.

Oswald Chambers wrote, “The Sermon on the Mount is not a set of principles to be obeyed apart from identification with Jesus Christ. The Sermon on the Mount is a statement of the life we shall live when the Holy Spirit is getting His way with us.”[4] But you have to beware of legalism, even with Jesus’ teaching. You cannot turn these teachings into law. [1:00:09]

Let’s just conclude with one more very briefly:

“Ye heard that it is said by them of old time, Thou shalt not commit adultery.” (Matthew 5:27, KJV)

 What is adultery? It’s an act. Jesus was very conscious of the righteous men of his day who did not commit adultery. They just sat around and steamed over it. And He says, “Look, whoever looks at a woman to lust after her . . .” (Matthew 5:28) That is, this does not say, whoever is sexually tempted. This is speaking about a specific kind of relationship, which in our society, especially in the day of equal opportunity, we are all very well acquainted with. [1:00:57]

And He says, “Whosoever looks upon a woman for the purpose of lusting after her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” (Matthew 5:28) You can’t be sexually righteous and just not do it. “Well, I didn’t do it.” Well, who are ya’? That’s the question about sexuality. Who are ya’?

What would you have done if you had been able to do it without any consequences? You see the thief is not one who steals. It’s the person who would steal. The adulterer is not the one who does it. It’s the one who would do it. [1:01:45]

Jesus says,

“If your right eye offend you, pluck it out, and cast it from you: for it is more profitable for you that one of your members should perish, and not your whole body should be cast in hell. If your right hand offend you, cut it off; cast if from you: for it is profitable for thee that one of your members should perish, and not let the whole body should be cast into hell.” (Matthew 5:29–30)

And the Pharisees said, “Oh well, that’s real serious stuff. I mean now, we are getting down to—we are talking about cutting off.” No, Jesus was not recommending that you do any of that. The whole point of the passage is to the contrary. It’s the Pharisee who says “the sin is in my member; therefore, if I cut off my member, I cannot what?” I cannot sin! [1:02:28]

Jesus’ whole teaching is cut off your member, punch out your eye and you think you will roll into Heaven a mutilated stump. But the sin is in your heart. You know you’ve got to give credit to Jesus for some smarts. From a logical point of view, what He is using here is what we call a reductio ad absurdum. You take a principle and you deduce a silly consequence—the principle is sin is in your members. The deduction is chop ‘em all off and you’ve got it made.

Now, as He looked around I’m sure he didn’t see a single Pharisee with an eye punched out, with a hand cut off. And so He just said, “You guys talk a big line. Let’s see you get with it.” But He was not teaching that you should do that. No doubt you would be better to go to Heaven with a mutilated stump if that would do it but it won’t. [1:03:37]

“Lord, give us grace to understand your teachings and be our teacher and dwell with us always, as you have promised.”


[1] Numbers in brackets indicate the time index of the recorded lecture.

[2] Note: Many of Dallas Willard’s Scripture quotations were made from memory, so a majority of them were paraphrased (although some varied only slightly from the King James Version of the Bible). Except for this first one, these are not marked. Those from specific Bible versions are noted.

[3] This aphorism is attributed to American media mogul, Ted Turner; Dr. Scholl’s footcare company founder, William Scholl (1882–1968); and American educator and author, Lawrence J. Peter (1919–1990); however, the saying in its current form can be traced back to 1898, although other forms of the phrase can be seem as early as 1793 in Benjamin Franklin’s Poor Richard’s Almanac. https://www.barrypopik.com/index.php/new_york_city/entry/early_to_bed_early_to_rise_work_like_hell_and_advertise (accessed November 29, 2019).

[4] Oswald Chambers, The Psychology of Redemption (United Kingdom: Marshall Morgan & Scott, 1935) 34.

Listen to all parts in this A Series on What Jesus Believed and Taught—And Lived series