“For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 5:20)
Above is another excerpt from Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount. It’s not a popular verse. Indeed, it sounds depressing. Jesus seems to be saying that unless we lead lives that are more upright and moral than the iconic holy people of His day, we are all doomed! The curious thing is that these words come at the end of an inspirational pep-talk that Jesus gives to the crowd, which makes them seem a bit out of place.
“You are the salt of the earth” (Matthew 5:13). “You are the light of the world” (Matthew 5:14). That’s how Jesus begins – telling the crowd who have come to hear Him that they are more capable than they realise. Yes, these people have been crushed by the brutality of the Roman occupation and, yes, they probably feel helpless and useless a lot of the time, but you, Jesus says, are salt and light. You are a force to be reckoned with!
As I say, this sounds like a pep-talk that a coach might give to their team before they go out to play the big game. The people Jesus is talking to are like a team who have gone through a whole season without winning a single match. Nonetheless, Jesus tells them that they are blessed (Matthew 5:1-12) and that they are indeed God’s team, fully equipped to change the world!
It’s in this context, I believe, that we need to understand Jesus’ subsequent words about keeping to the law and being righteous. If the goal is to win the game, the team not only needs to be inspired. They also need to be well-trained.
Scholar, Jeff Benner, suggests that the Hebrew concept of ‘righteousness’ came out of the experience of the Jewish people, surviving their many years in the wilderness:
“The Ancient Hebrews were a nomadic people who travelled a circuit through the wilderness, following the same paths from pasture to pasture, campsite to campsite and watering hole to watering hole. Anyone leaving this path can become lost and wander aimlessly, one who has “departed” from the path. A righteous person is not one who lives a religiously pious life, the common interpretation of this word, he is one who follows the correct path, the path (way) of God.”
If we understand ‘righteousness’ this way, it’s something akin to following the routines in the training manual so that we can develop properly as athletes.
As a professional boxer, it’s not enough for me to train hard. I also need to train right. I need to be careful about my exercise routines, about the days and times when I train. I need to be careful not to overdo it and run myself down. I also need to be careful about my diet and my sleep and about a whole variety of things. If I want to win, I need to do my best to get every aspect of my health and fitness exactly right.
I think that this is what having “righteousness that exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees” (Matthew 5:20) is about. It’s about being deliberate in the way we train and develop our spiritual muscle. It’s about doing the work necessary to become the spiritual athletes we were created to be. Ultimately, it’s about winning the fight, and Jesus is telling us very clearly that we do indeed have what it takes to win.
We are the salt. We are the light. Let’s spice things up! Let us shine!
Our Sunday Eucharist
A big thank you to Rob, Doug and Nathan, who were with me for last Sunday’s Eucharist. We began with Doug sharing some jokes with us, and I’ve included them in the recording. I’ve also included some exciting news about my old friend (and fellow Fighting Father), Father Elias of the Netherlands. I won’t say more about that here but it’s all in the first few minutes of the recording below.
This Sunday we start with our new format. We’ll have Dave Baldwin and Tom Toby (our monthly Muslim guest commentator) joining me live, and we’ll have Dr Stephen Sizer giving us a pre-recorded reflection on the Epistle reading.
I’ve mentioned Stephen many times already. He is a scholar, an author, an activist, and a great guy. He can’t join us live from London as we broadcast at 1am his time. It will be a great privilege though to have him with us via his pre-recorded message.
I’m excited to say that we now have a reasonably solid monthly roster for our
Sunday Eucharist for the first four Sundays of each month:
- Dave and Tom (and Stephen Sizer)
- Diane and Robert (and Joel Jammal)
- Karyn and Sam (and Father Ola)
- Doug and Andrew (and Father Elias)
The only area where we fall short at this stage is with guest musicians. Have you got a song to contribute? Let me know. Either way, I look forward to having you with me this Sunday from about 11.45 am. Join us on www.thesundayeucharist.com, or via your favourite social media sites: Facebook , YouTube, Twitter or LinkedIn.
Let me work your corner
As ever, a big thank you to my twenty-seven patrons at Patreon.com and to all those who support the work of Fighting Fathers Ministries with finances and with prayer. If you’re not a subscriber yet and you’re ready and able to support us, please go to Patreon.com and sign up to any of the following divisions:
- Enrol in the Fighting Fit training program
- Access member-only training videos
- Engage in the members-only forum (see below)
- All of the above +
- One-on-one mentoring via email, phone, or Skype
- All of the above +
- Unlimited training at Father Dave’s Old School Boxing Academy
- All of the above +
- One weekend per month at Binacrombi Bush Camp.
Every dollar helps keep the wheels of Fighting Fathers Ministries turning – the websites, the newsletters, the broadcasts, the boxing club and the bush camp. Sign up at Patreon.com.
What’s coming up?
- Sunday, February 5th – Our Eucharist at midday @thesundayeucharist.com or via any major social media site: Facebook , YouTube, Twitter or LinkedIn.
- Tuesday, February 7th – Boxing from 6.30 pm @The Fight Lab
- Thursday, February 9th – Boxing from 6.30 pm @The Fight Lab
- Friday, February 10th to Sunday, February 12th – @Binacrombi .
- Saturday, April 29 – Down the Rabbit Hole Fundraiser @The Epping Club.
Please do put the date of the fundraiser in April in your diaries, and let me know too if you’re available to join me at Binacrombi next weekend (February 10 to 12) for another great bush experience.
I’ll close off this week by directing your attention to the second video that I’ve included below. It’s an old-school promotional video for Moore Theological College, which my dad, my brother, Rob, and I all attended. It stars my dad! 🙂
For some reason Dad, who a young man when he made this video, is referred to in it as ‘John’. Even so, there’s no mistaking Rev. Bruce Smith, even if he wasn’t a Rev. when he made it. Some of you may remember Dad before he was taken from us in March 2001. I miss him every day.
May the Lord bless you and strengthen you for the work to which you have been called.
About Father Dave Smith
Preacher, Pugilist, Activist, Father of four