Everything of great spiritual value has its counterfeits. Obviously, righteousness fits into the category of precious because Satan offers an imitation of it. To be genuinely righteous before God, your righteousness must exceed that of the scribes and Pharisees (Matthew 5:20).
In both the Sermon on the Mount and Matthew 23, Jesus describes the characteristics of counterfeit righteousness. In Matthew 23, we find the following description of phony righteousness:
- It renders lip service (v. 2).
- It adds to and subtracts from God’s Word (vv. 4, 23).
- It has impure and improper motives (v. 5).
- It is worldly minded (vv. 14, 23).
- It has impure, improper, and carnal values (vv. 6-7, 16-19).
- It focuses on superficial matters (vv. 25-28).
In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus describes genuine righteousness as having the following characteristics:
- It is from the heart (5:3-8).
- It does not add to or subtract from God’s Word (5:18-19).
- It has pure and proper motives (6:4, 6, 18).
- It is spiritually minded (6:33).
- It has pure, proper, and spiritual values (5:29-30, 12).
- It focuses on weighty matters (5:16).
There is a world and eternity of differences between genuine and counterfeit righteousness.