“Whoever therefore breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever does and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of 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. (Mat 5:19-20 NKJ)
Now behold, one came and said to Him, “Good Teacher, what good thing shall I do that I may have eternal life?” So He said to him, “Why do you call Me good? No one is good but One that is, God. But if you want to enter into life, keep the commandments.” He said to Him, “Which ones?” Jesus said, “`You shall not murder, ‘`You shall not commit adultery, ‘`You shall not steal, ‘`You shall not bear false witness,’ `Honor your father and your mother,’ and, `You shall love your neighbor as yourself.'” The young man said to Him, “All these things I have kept from my youth. What do I still lack?” Jesus said to him, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell what you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.” (Mat 19:16-21 NKJ)
The Scribes and the Pharisees kept the letter of the Law, but they lacked righteousness and holiness, which is the spirit of the Law. The rich young man who comes to Jesus, has the same attitude as the Pharisees, seeing the Law as the keeping of external regulations. Remember the first commandment, “You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength.” (Deu 6:5 NKJ) He claimed perfection, yet Jesus knew where this man’s heart was with his wealth. His reaction to Jesus’ words clearly showed that he didn’t ‘love the LORD with ALL his heart, with ALL his soul, and with ALL his strength.’
As Christians, Jesus wants us to keep the spirit of the Law, in that we should seek inward righteousness and external fruit of our actions, thereby exceeding the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees. However, be careful. It is always advisable to examine ourselves before we pat ourselves on the back.