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Jesus' Teachings - The Beatitudes
Some of the best known words from Jesus come from just a portion of a very long sermon on a mountainside. It is better known as The Beatitudes, from the Latin meaning “blessed” or “happy” and is located in Matthew chapter 5. Many call them wise sayings, ethical guidelines or proverbs. They might actually sound that way if you just read through them quickly instead of intently looking further into them as they were originally meant to be. They might seem confusing or maybe even be misinterpreted based on one’s background or mood of the moment. So, let us take a look together into the depths of The Beatitudes.
Poor in Spirit
Now when he saw the crowds, he went up on a mountainside and sat down. His disciples came to him, and he began to teach them saying:
Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 5:1-3 NIV)
The word “poor” here does not reflect someone’s financial status or the quantity of spirit, life or hope that they have. In reality that cannot be quantified. So what does it really mean? It means that a person is blessed or happy when he cannot go on just relying on his own power and steam. Usually when we do things our way and in our time, we end up clinging to a thread-bare rope over a jagged cliff with a bottomless abyss below. Not a fun place to be, but one we visit quite often when we refuse to sit in the passenger seat of our lives. We have to drive because for some unknown crazy reason we think that we know what is ahead and what the destination really is. Sounds completely out there if hanging in the open at the whim of the breeze is something to be happy about. But if we pull back out of the intense emotion of that time, you’ll realize that it is only then that we get a good look at ourselves and are completely humbled. It is only then that we look up since we do not want to look down and we seek out the only one that can get us out of this mess. It is not the significant other, best friend, money, power, or status. Only God can save us from our personal abyss. That is why we can be so happy when we are “poor in spirit” or at the very end of our rope. We begin to see things clearly and can let go knowing that when we truly cry out to Him and hand it over to Him, we can feel solid ground beneath our feet and breathe regularly again. God is seeking those that are humble. When He finds them, they will find a home in heaven for eternity.
Those That Mourn
Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. (4)
This verse is not saying that Jesus is thrilled that your heart is broken. We should not be dancing because you have lost a loved one to divorce or death. What this means is that when you experience deep mourning, you experience the ultimate comfort. I’ve been there as I mourned the loss of my dear father. It was extremely painful and not something you get over quickly. I cried when I heard about his sickness. I cried when he asked me in a weak voice to sing to him. I cried when I knew that I would never see him again. I cried when I heard that he knew complete relief. I cry on his birthday and mine because I will not hear his horridly off-key birthday song. I mourn deeply. But I am comforted beyond what words can describe. I feel God’s arms around me to let me know that I’m not alone. I feel Him wipe the tears from my cheek as I lay in bed crying quietly so not to wake anyone. And in that comfort I get closer to Him and get more confident in my daily walk because He noticed my deep hurt and comforted me. The ones who mourn receive something that no one else does – an intimate time with the Father. Just like we are thankful for the shoulder of a friend to cry on and we might be happy that they were there. Being happy during this time is not delight for the sadness but for the growth and peace achieved during that time. When you mourn and turn to God, you are truly blessed.
Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth. (5)
Who are the “meek” people? They are the ones who possess humility. They are not the ones wanting to hog the spotlight. It is about not always thinking of yourself and lifting others up before you. Meek is coming in second place and celebrating the victory of the winner and not crying foul play. It is knowing you make better spaghetti but praising the other person’s cooking. It is not having to be up front and all eyes on you. The meek work without needing or demanding attention or applause. They might stay in the shadows content to get the job done. Why would they inherit the earth? Because God recognizes quality workers. He wants those that are not in it for their own personal glory to do the work He assigns them. He will give them much to supervise and manage because He knows where their hearts are. The meek don’t have to hear the applause of the world around them, they have the pat on the back from God.
Hunger and Thirst
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled. (6)
When a student approaches their professor and inquires deeper on a topic, they are expressing a desire to know more. They hunger to expand their knowledge and know what the teacher knows. This sends indescribable chills down the mentors back. To have someone come with emptiness and seeking guidance is such an honor to those who teach. Does the professor turn the eager eyes away? Of course not. He begins to quench the thirst. Blessed are those that hunger for more, because the teacher is always wanting to give and will give without hesitation. They will experience whole new worlds that those around them that have no desire will never understand. They will be left out in the dark and not understand what it feel s like to be in the light. God is just like that. He will not turn away those that call out for more wisdom and more knowledge. He will not turn away those that call out for guidance and love. They will be filled and will have riches untold.
Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy. (7)
Mercy is not giving someone what they might deserve. It is giving them what they need at that moment. When the drunk comes home begging for forgiveness, mercy is letting him come back in and showing him compassion. When the best friend who stabbed you in the back pleads with you to listen to their apologies, mercy is not slamming the door in the face and telling them where to go. Mercy can be hard. It is hard to show mercy to the street bum, but mercy comes in the form of a plate of meatloaf at the local diner. If you don’t show mercy to others, why should the same blessing be poured out on you in your time of need and desperation? Here, Jesus is saying that the ones that others might have considered weak by showing mercy will be the ones to receive it while the mocking ones will receive none. That is the blessing and the happiness that they will experience.
Pure in Heart
Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God. (8)
Who enters the kingdom of heaven? Those in rich clothes? Those with big houses and cars? Those with lots of power? Those that do a lot of good deeds? Not necessarily. God doesn’t care about what we each see. What He cares about is what we can’t see: the heart. He is looking for those whose hearts are rich, big, filled with his power, and seeking good deeds with humility. Those are the only ones who turn to accept Him and seek Him out. They are the only ones that can be labeled “pure” in heart. Are they perfect? Heavens, no! But they so desire to do good and not embarrass God. The Bible, the same one that many of those snobby people quote to their own benefit, explicitly states that you will sin and make mistakes but it is if, in your, that you love God that matters in the end. King David stole, cheated, lied, slept with another man’s wife, and murdered. Yet, God loved him and blessed him. Why? Because the minute that David realized that he had done wrong he threw himself before God and begged for His forgiveness. His heart was pure though his actions were tainted. It is not how clean on the outside that matters. It is how clean on the inside that does. Those are the pure in heart.
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God. (9)
Peacemakers are not those that say, “I told you so”. They are not the ones that come in and take control of a situation to whip everyone in order. They are the ones who use wisdom to bring true peace and not a type “A” dominance to quiet it all down. They do not want only peace, but reconciliation and understanding. Peacemakers are ones that approach a tense situation with humility and help the others calm down and grow. This is not an easy task. In fact, very few people show this characteristic. Most of us want the drama, create the drama, and thrive in the drama. But a peacemaker seeks the opposite and will do so through love, encouragement, and compassion. They want the enemies to be reconciled and to lay down the sword. I knew a woman who considered herself the ultimate peacemaker. So when a disagreement broke out between me and another woman, she proclaimed that she was coming in to save the day. It made matters a million times worse. She was not a peacemaker. This rare trait is one reason why God calls them His children (this doesn’t mean that others are not). He is saying that only true peacemakers have reached a point in their lives where they are truly listening to Him and applying His teachings. They are becoming the teacher’s assistants instead of mere students.
Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you. (10-12)
Being beaten up and ridiculed brings blessings? Doesn’t make sense to me. How about you? But it makes perfect sense. Let’s look at it in this light. An old man is sitting on the sidewalk leaning against the empty building. He smells of urine and many other things we don’t want to know about. His teeth are black and lice are crawling all over him. The automatic response here is to pull away and run home to a scalding shower. But one woman feels compassion, mercy, and walks slowly up to him. She reaches into her purse and feels the peanut butter sandwich that she packed this morning. Without it there would be another six hours of no food. But the sight of the man moves her. She gives him the sandwich for which he thanks her over and over. She begins the walk back to work. Unknown to her are a couple of guys for the local gang walking on the other side of the street. They see the act and simply cannot resist the temptation to have a little so-called fun. They run over to the man and begin to trash talk him and then begin to kick him. The woman turns around and cannot believe what she is seeing. She runs to help the man and in the process takes a fist in the face. The hoodlums begin to focus on her and the impending outcome is not going to be pretty. But a car comes by that send the boys running. The woman pulls herself up and runs to safety. The old man was still lying on the sidewalk. When the police arrive, he has dragged himself away and the officials lost the blood trail. A few days later as the bruises are starting to fade, the woman gets an invite to a lawyer’s office. Not sure what to expect she goes since the firm was very reputable. She is escorted into a lush office that is empty. A few minutes later a distinguished older gentleman walks in. His clothes oozed billions. His hands were soft as they shook hers. He didn’t say anything but looked her in the eyes. A few minutes passed before he raised one hand and pointed at a cut on his temple. She remembered the old man on the street getting kicked there. Her mouth fell open as recognition dawned on her. It seems that this man had made a bet with a friend that there were good people in this world that would sacrifice themselves for a stranger. She was that one of those good people. She suffered physical and emotional harm all because she knew what was happening was wrong. He rewarded her with enough money for the rest of life so that she never had to work again. Blessed was she for being beaten. That sentence sounds strange without the rest of the story. So does this verse. Those that are physically harmed and verbally abused all because they choose to follow God, will be blessed beyond anyone’s wildest imaginations.
What is the purpose of all this? To get our eyes focused where they need to be. They do not need to be focused on our accomplishments. They do not need to be focused on our self-worth. They should be on the One who has no boundaries and no limitations. That is the one that I want to focus on and to receive blessings from. Are all these “guidelines” or pearls of wisdom easy? If they were, maybe more people would exemplify them. But they require sacrifice, determination, and humility. If you are willing to do all that, they you are on your way to being blessed. We’ll do so much for an education, a higher position in the company, to obtain our ultimate desires but when it comes to showing a little mercy or humility we throw up our hands and declare it impossible. How important are these blessings to you?