Matthew 5:20- For I say unto you, That except your righteousness shall exceed [the righteousness] of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven. What did Jesus mean when He said this? Well, here's what I get out of it... Jesus' statement that our righteousness must exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees is indicating that their is no salvation apart from a righteousness by faith and a new birth. Mere external righteousness according to the Law or according to works alone will fall far short of the Kingdom of Heaven This becomes evident when one realizes the importance that the scribes and Pharisees placed on strict outward observance of the Law of Moses. They believed that they were righteous before God based on an outward obedience to God's commands, but Jesus was saying that external obedience to the commands of God was not enough. It is possible to obey the Laws external commands, but break them internally, (in our hearts and minds). For example, I may have never murdered anyone, but if I hate someone I am a murderer according to the apostle John. I may have never actually committed adultery, but if I look lustfully at a woman, I am an adulterer according to Jesus. I may never steal, but if I covet I have broken the Law, etc. Additionally, one who has "religion" but has not love possesses a vain and empty religion. ( 1 Corinthians 13) Jesus is telling His disciples that they cant get by on merely external religion, because God not only looks at our actions but He also looks at our hearts. We may appear outwardly good and righteous to everyone around us, but God knows the secrets of our hearts. Therefore, we need both forgiveness and inward change. In another place, Jesus preached to the Pharisees and said... “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you cleanse the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of extortion and self-indulgence. Blind Pharisee, first cleanse the inside of the cup and dish, that the outside of them may be clean also. ( Matthew 23:25-26) Jesus wasnt talking about literal dishes and cups, He was saying that they worked so hard to make themselves appear righteous on the outside, but their hearts were still wicked. Now this does not only apply to them, but to us as well, for Jeremiah said, " ...the heart is deceitful above all things, desperately wicked, who can know it..." ( Jeremiah 17:9) God promised to provide the needed internal change, ( which is received by faith), through a New Covenant . God describes this New Covenant in Jeremiah 33:31-34, which includes the promises that God would change believers internally, He would be their God, they would know Him, and that He would forgive their sins. So the statement that our righteousness must exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees does not contradict the teaching of righteousness by faith in Christ, it reveals why we need to trust in Christ, (ie our own righteousness is not enough). The scribes and Pharisees were the most religious people around, but religion is not nearly enough. We need Jesus!