According to Jesus, righteousness is conforming to the character of God as revealed in the King James Bible.
When Jesus Walked the earth, the Pharisees and religious leaders focused on outward standards of adhering to the law as opposed to righteousness of spirit. According to Jesus, Scriptures are to bring change in our heart, attitudes, words and behaviours. Scripture imparts within our hearts a love for one another. Believers are known by their Love. If we don't love, then we don't understand scripture and the Word of God has not changed our heart and mind in Christ Jesus.
The Apostle Paul wrote:
Now the end of the commandment is charity out of a pure heart, and of a good conscience, and of faith unfeigned: From which some having swerved have turned aside unto vain jangling; Desiring to be teachers of the law; understanding neither what they say, nor whereof they affirm.1 Timothy 1:5-7 (KJV)
Time spent in the Word of God should make us more loving and kind, not smarter, more pious or better than anyone else. Theology is important but that is not the purpose of God's Word. The purpose of God's Word is to know God, know our enemy and be conformed to the Image of His Son.
It is not to be a rote experience. Love comes forth from having contact with the Living God. God's Goodness is discovered in doing ordinary things in extraordinary ways. It is not about “religion” or religious behaviours. It is being gracious, thankful, kind and loving in all aspects of our lives including our speech and behaviours.
In Matthew 7:1, Jesus issues a warning: “Judge not, that ye be not judged.”
What HE is saying is we are not to demand our standard of righteousness in the lives of others. The standard of righteousness is meant for us, not others God brings in to our lives.
We should sit in judgment of ourselves and bring all aspects of our own lives in to sync with God's Standard. It is not our job to correct, judge, or shape other people. We are accountable for ourselves only. We are commanded to love and speak truth in love only. We are not to stop discerning the spirits when we encounter other people, or pretend not to notice faults, good, evil, or refraining from any criticism. We are not to be deceptive. We are still to be critics who discern - but we are not to judge people harshly with anger. We are not called to be fault-finders who focus on negative personality traits or who actively seek out the weaknesses of people assuming the worst about their character, or motives. We are not to ignore or mock their ideas or dwell on their mistakes.
We get back what we give. We reap what we sow. If we sow criticism in to the lives of others, we receive criticism back from them. If we sow love, patience, kindness, thanksgiving, goodness, prayerfully, in time, we will receive these back from them.
For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again. Matthew 7:2 (KJV)
The way we treat other people is how they will treat us. If we are critical, intolerant, judgmental, sarcastic, and negative, then people will be inclined to treat us in the same manner. If we are gracious, thoughtful, kind, patient, thankful, then over time, people will respond in kind.
In 2 Samuel 12, after David sinned with Bathsheba, Nathan brought a case to David for judgment. The case involved a rich man with many sheep who stole the only ewe lamb a poor man had. David's judgment against the thief was harsh.
2 Samuel 12:5 And David's anger was greatly kindled against the man; and he said to Nathan, As the Lord liveth, the man that hath done this thing shall surely die:
David's anger and judgment back fired on him when Nathan stated that David himself was the man who had stolen the only ewe lamb the poor man owned. There is reciprocity awaiting us when we judge others as our judgment returns to us.
This often happens when we project on to others our own weaknesses that we deny exist. Reaping what we sow is one of God's Ways of dealing with our own personal double standards. We are hard on the people God brings in to our lives but we are lenient or in denial of ourselves and our own behaviours. We become stubborn, indignant, and unforgiving when someone questions aspects of our own lives and behaviours. We refuse to apologize when we have hurt someone deeply. Jesus warns us to be careful as we will reap what we have sown and could find ourselves in the chair of the condemned.
Critical people who are not gracious or thankful often lack a sense of worth. Everyone wants to be accepted or approved. When we criticize others, it takes the focus off ourselves and makes us feel better or empowered. We need to be aware of hypocrisy. When we remove a speck of dirt from someone's eye we are inflating our own ego.
That is what the Pharisees did as they exalted themselves at the expense of others. Jesus rebuked the Pharisees for their superior attitudes and self righteousness. The Pharisee made an inaccurate comparison in an attempt to magnify his own virtue and value - while bringing to the light the wickedness of the tax collector.
When we become impatient, intolerant, angry, frustrated, demanding change, etc., we are sitting in judgment of the people God has brought in to our lives. We are being modern day Pharisees. God is the only One qualified to be the Judge. No human being is qualified to be the judge of his fellow humans, for we cannot read the hearts or motives of another.
When we judge someone, we are playing God. In order to judge justly, we would need to know everything about the person, not only their external circumstances but also their inner thoughts and motives, and that is impossible. We cannot be sure of our own motives; how can we presume to judge someone else's?
This is not an order to be blind or naïve, but it is a plea to be generous with grace, patience, love, kindness and thanksgiving.
The Bible does speak of an act of redemptive judgment. In Galatians, the Apostle Paul says:
Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted. Galatians 6:1(KJV)
This isn't a judgment that condemns in anger or frustration. It is words designed to save, rescue and love. When we see a believer violating a clear command of Scripture, we should reach out to help in a spirit of love and humility. Love cares enough to gently, with love, empathy, grace and acceptance, reach out to restore and rebuild someone who has fallen.
Love restores and rescues. Criticism, anger and fault finding causes conflict and division.
Before we lovingly, with grace, go to rescue someone who has fallen, we must remember the principle of priority. God wants us to apply scriptures to ourselves and our own lives first.
And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother's eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye? Or how wilt thou say to thy brother, Let me pull out the mote out of thine eye; and, behold, a beam is in thine own eye? Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother's eye. Matthew 7:3-5 (KJV)
Earlier, Jesus exposed hypocrisy in relation to God and meddling in the mistakes or faults of others while failing to look at ourselves. In Matthew 7:3-5, Jesus is telling us to consider the beam in our own eye before we worry or focus on the speck in the eye of another. When we have a beam in our own eye, it obscures our vision and ability to see things clearly for what they really are.
We often gladly bring to the attention of others, get angry, impatient, or unkind while minimizing the seriousness of our own faults, unkindness, impatience, anger, etc. When we do this, we derive pleasure from self-righteousness without repentance or asking for forgiveness from God and those we have hurt.
In verse 5, Jesus is telling us to deal with our own sin and problems before we get angry, frustrated, unkind, impatient, etc. with someone else. We must allow God to change ourselves first before we reach out in love to help others.
If we do this in our homes, ministry partnerships, and friendships - rather than pointing out over and over again the problems we see in our ministry partners or friends, it would work miracles in all aspects of our communication.
Jesus' standard for relationships in His kingdom is healthy, filled with joy and thanksgiving. We are not to be the judge (harsh, angry, condemning, self-righteous) or hypocritical (blaming or projecting on to others while excusing ourselves). We are to care so much for others that we blame and correct ourselves, then reach out in love to help another. We need to be as critical of ourselves as we often are of others, and as generous to others as we always are to ourselves.
There is a balance to this, however. Verse 6:
Give not that which is holy unto the dogs, neither cast ye your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn again and rend you.Matthew 7:6(KJV)
We are not to be naïve or simple. We are to be wise as serpents. Not everyone is open, thankful or willing to accept correction or criticism.
Reprove not a scorner, lest he hate thee: rebuke a wise man, and he will love thee. Proverbs 9:8(KJV)
We do have to make judgments. We are to be analytical and thoughtful in our dealings with others.
We will encounter people who do not want to remove the speck from their own eye. They don't want truth and they don't want help. They want to live under the cover of darkness and deception.
If this is the case, do not take the precious things of God (Love), like pearls, and throw them to an animal which will trample them under foot. God withdraws light from those who do not want it, because truth makes these types of people more vicious. They disrespect spiritual things and we should not force the matter. It is best to walk away, not have further personal contact and pray for them.