Blessedness is…

“And he opened his mouth and taught them, saying:”
(Matthew 5:2 (ESV))

Reading through the Beatitudes as recorded in the Sermon on the Mount (Matt. 5:3-12), I began to wonder, “Are these attributes that we would associate with ‘blessedness’ today?”  When we consider those qualities and characteristics that the world admires and endorses, we find a strikingly different list. 

Today’s Beatitudes

  • Blessed are the financially secure
    Those who have no needs are the really fortunate ones.  They can stand on their own two feet.  They need no one’s help.  They possess their kingdom.
  • Blessed are the happy
    Happiness is a right, and nothing should infringe upon an individual’s right to be happy, however that may be experienced.  Sorrow should be avoided at any cost, for it is a sign that things just aren’t right.  If you are successful in life, you will be happy.
  • Blessed are those in power
    No one wants their lives to be out of control.  Those who have power, and are in control of their destiny are blessed.  They determine what they will do and when they will do it.  They have influence and authority over others.  They’ve got their lives well put together.
  • Blessed are those who are secure in their own morality and would never impose it on others
    We avoid the term self-righteous, it sounds smug and pretentious, but it reality we kind of admire it.  As long as your “self-righteousness” doesn’t’ infringe on my “self-righteousness” we should get along.  Each of us should be able to determine what’s right and wrong for our lives.  The only thing that we won’t tolerate in intolerance.
  • Blessed are the nice
    The greatest compliment that we can pay to someone today is that they are “very nice.”  They are polite, well-mannered, doing good for others, holding their tongue, socially acceptable.  The nice people don’t make waves, they don’t upset or confront those around them.  They’re just nice.
  • Blessed are those who find compromise
    It’s perfectly acceptable to have integrity and values for yourself, but compromise is the highest sign of sensibility.  When we can cross the aisle and embrace those who disagree with us, casting aside the peripheral matters, working our way down to the lowest common denominator, then we have achieved unity and maturity.
  • Blessed are those who can avoid conflict
    The world is full of conflict and war, struggle and oppression.  It happens on a global scale, but it also happens individually.  Fortunate are those who can go through life with little conflict, who can avoid having to confront the difficult problems of life, and can sleep well through the night.
  • Blessed are those who are treated well and are well-liked
    When you are treated poorly, perhaps it’s because you have acted poorly.  If you are persecuted for the things you’ve said and believe, maybe you need to reexamine your faith, or at least learn when to keep your mouth shut.  The world likes those who like the world.

Now compare that with what Jesus taught.

The Beatitudes

  • Blessed are the poor in spirit
    Those who realize they have nothing of their own to offer God, but come empty handed, in desperate need of God’s help – theirs is the kingdom of God.  The kingdom of God is the promise of God’s presence and provision.  He will, and has, supplied our every need.
  • Blessed are those who mourn
    The sorrow that comes from an awareness of our sin and the brokenness of a fallen world drives us to seek forgiveness in the grace of God.  Such an awareness comes only from the Holy Spirit; this kind of righteous mourning leads us to true comfort in Christ.  The Holy Spirit is our comforter, our encourager, only in Him will we know the true joy of the presence of God.
  • Blessed are the meek
    The meek are those who recognize that power and control are actually an illusion, that God is in control, and we must learn to trust and obey.  The meek put aside their plans and agendas to serve others first, following Christ their Lord.  The meek long for the treasure that awaits us, and therefore are not preoccupied with the trappings of power and possession of this world.
  • Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness
    To hunger and thirst for righteousness is to recognize that as bread and water are essential for life, righteousness (true holiness and justification before God) is the greatest need for the soul.  To hunger and thirst for righteousness then, means that our greatest desire is to be right with God, and to see righteousness in the lives of others.  When our greatest goal in life is to pursue the glory of God in righteousness, we will be truly satisfied.
  • Blessed are the merciful
    Mercy is different than nice.  Mercy is illogical, irrational, and uncommon.  It means not lashing out when wounded, but offering grace and forgiveness instead, showing compassion especially to an offender.  Mercy, like grace, is a gift that comes with no expectations of return.  It is loving the unlovable, forgiving the unrepentant, serving the ungrateful.
  • Blessed are the pure in heart
    To be pure in heart means to have a heart that is undivided, wholly fixed and directed to one end.  Having a heart of integrity, directed toward God’s glory and goodness, is what God created (and re-created) us for.  Repeatedly we are called to direct our heart to the Lord, to serve him with all our heart, soul, mind and strength.  Such wholehearted love of God leads us to true unity and maturity as we grow in the likeness of Christ.
  • Blessed are the peacemakers
    Peacemakers are not those who avoid problems or difficult situations, but those who deal with them head on and work through them.  To be peacemakers in God’s kingdom is to proclaim the gospel, to teach, correct, rebuke, and train one another in righteousness.  Peacemakers proclaim justice for the oppressed, healing to the sick, freedom to the enslaved.  Born of a peace that comes from salvation in Jesus Christ, they are the sons of God.
  • Blessed are those who are persecuted and reviled because of me
    If you have gone through this life never knowing the consequence of standing for your faith, perhaps your faith has been inconsequential in your life.  The persecution we face for believing in Christ, for contending for the faith, draws us closer to Christ.  Remembering Jesus’ words, “A servant is not greater than his master. If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you” (John 15:20).

Friends, judge for yourselves which teaching you will follow, where you will find the true blessedness.  One shows you where the world would have you look to find happiness, the other where Jesus says happiness is found.  One would have you follow the ladder to success and empowerment, the other would have you take up your cross and follow your savior.  As Joshua said, “if it is evil in your eyes to serve the Lord, choose this day whom you will serve… but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord” (Joshua 24:15).

SDG

No Shallow Christianity

As I was studying for Sunday’s message on Hosea, I came across the following from James Montgomery Boice’s commentary on the Minor Prophets.  This doesn’t really tie in anywhere with my sermon, but I found it particularly meaningful, so I thought I’d pass it on.

We live in an age where everything good is interpreted in terms of happiness and success.  So when we think of spiritual blessing we thing of it in terms of these things.  To be led of God and blessed by God means that we will be “happy” and “successful.”  In fact, if a Christian does not appear to be happy or successful, there are scores of people who will be ready (like Job’s counselors) to work with him or her to see what is wrong.  This is shallow thinking and shallow Christianity, for God does not always lead his people into ways that we would naturally regard as happy or as filled with success.  Was Jesus happy?  He was undoubtedly filled with joy and all the other fruits of the Spirit.  but he was also called “a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief.”  Was Jesus successful?  Not by our standards, nor by any standards that might have been applied to him by anyone living in that time.  Let us put down as a great principle: God sometimes leads his children to do things that afterwards involved them in great distress.  But because God does not think as we think or act as we act, it is often in these situations that he accomplishes his greatest victories and brings the greatest blessing to his name.

If God has allowed tragedy to slip into your life, this does not necessarily mean that you were out of his will when you married that husband or wife, took that job, or made that commitment.  He may be giving you a chance to show the love and character of Christ in your situation.

Again, you may be able to learn something of God’s love for you through the difficulty.  For what is the story of Hosea if not the story of ourselves as members of that body which is the bride of Christ?  We are Gomer, and God is Hosea.  He married us when we were unclean.  He knew that we could prove unfaithful again and again.  He knew that we would forsake him.  Still he loved us and purchased us to himself through Christ’s atonement.  If Hosea’s story cannot be real (because “God would not ask a man to marry an unfaithful woman”), then neither is the story of salvation real, because that is precisely what Christ has done for us.  He has purchased us for himself to be a bride “without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless” (Eph 5:27), and he has done this even though he knew in advance that we would often prove faithless.

Boice, James Montgomery. The Minor Prophets: Volume 1, Hosea – Jonah (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 1983) pg 16-17.