The Sermon on the Mount in Matthew chapters 5 through 7 should be regarded as the constitution of God’s Kingdom on earth. It is a masterpiece. The Christians of the first three centuries loved it and lived by it. In fact, one historian, W. S. Kissinger, states: “Matthew 5, 6, and 7 appear more frequently than any other three chapters in the entire Bible in the ante-Nicene writings!”
Augustine also viewed the Sermon on the Mount “as the perfect measure of the Christian life, filled with all the precepts by which a Christian life is formed.” A full in-depth examination of the Sermon on the Mount can be a life-changing experience.
In the introductory section of the Sermon on the Mount, often called the Beatitudes, Jesus invites people with various needs and perspectives into God’s Rule. Then, surprising to me, the first thing He does is to command their involvement. He lets them know at the very start that they need to listen well because He expects them to take action on His words. Think of that! One of the main points in the body of the Sermon is given near the very beginning:
You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt loses its flavor, how shall it be seasoned? It is then good for nothing but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot by men (salt makes food pleasing, even delicious).
You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven… For I say to you, that unless your righteousness exceeds the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, you will by no means enter the kingdom of Heaven. (Matthew 5:13–16, 20)
Jesus doesn’t dilly dally or wait till the end of the speech to ask His hearers to act. He makes it clear that the good things they are about to learn must be shared. Their righteousness, their righteous actions, must exceed that of their religious leaders!
Let’s take a minute to go to the term “righteous” or “righteousness.” Righteousness can be interpreted by some as a super holy, ethereal, otherworldly condition. But a little study brings its real meaning down to earth in an everyday way. The Greek word translated as “righteous” is dikaios. This word is translated as “righteous” 41 times in the New Testament and as “just” 33 times. So a righteous man is a “just” man who loves God and is guided in his life by truth, reason, fairness, and justice. In other words, he lives the Golden Rule.
The word “righteousness” has to do with being just, morally upright, and obedient to God’s laws. Jesus expects His followers to be righteous people practicing justice and fairness to all.