A reading from the gospel according to Matthew 5:20-26:
Jesus said to his disciples:
20 “I tell you, unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will not enter into the Kingdom of heaven.
21 “You have heard that it was said to your ancestors, You shall not kill; and whoever kills will be liable to judgment.
22 But I say to you, whoever is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment, and whoever says to his brother, Raqa, will be answerable to the Sanhedrin, and whoever says, ‘You fool,’ will be liable to fiery Gehenna.
23 Therefore, if you bring your gift to the altar, and there recall that your brother has anything against you,
24 leave your gift there at the altar, go first and be reconciled with your brother, and then come and offer your gift.
25 Settle with your opponent quickly while on the way to court. Otherwise your opponent will hand you over to the judge, and the judge will hand you over to the guard, and you will be thrown into prison.
26 Amen, I say to you, you will not be released until you have paid the last penny.”
Jesus says your righteousness must surpass that of the scribes and Pharisees. We all know that these religious leaders during that time were famous as critics of the Lord. They were called religious and that is all there is to them. A lot of times, Jesus called them hypocrites because they worship with their lips but their heart is far away from God (Matthew 15:18). He also rebuked them as fools and blind guides (Matthew 23:13-39).
Integrity is the opposite of hypocrisy. It is being whole – one in mind and body, meaning what is inside is the same as outside. There is moral consistency and no double standard. What you say is consistent with what you do. This is what the Pharisees and scribes lack and what Jesus abhors.
To be righteous means to be pleasing in the eyes of God because only He can read the heart of people. He knows our motivation and desires. Only God knows whether we truly love Him or our action is only for show or to gain the favor of humans. It is easy to look good in the eyes of men. We can pretend all we want but the sins of the heart such as lust, malice, pride, and jealousy cannot be hidden from God. These sins are as worthy of hell as much as murder and stealing.
Moreover, the gospel reading above speaks of anger. A humble and contrite heart does not harbor grudges and bitterness. Additionally, he does not look down on other people but instead accepts them and loves them as our brothers and sisters in Christ.
Finally, Jesus tells us the importance of reconciliation. We need to be in good terms with other people before we can enter or be part of the kingdom of God. A person who truly loves is ever ready to forgive. That is not the end. Reconciliation includes restitution and this is very clear in verse 26. There is no way out of imprisonment except by paying everything we owe.