We continue to wrestle with the beatitudes.

Right out of the gate we declared, “These are NOT commandments that we must obey.” There are no verbs anywhere in the beatitudes, much less imperative verbs.

These are not ways to earn brownie points, become more pleasing to God, or requirements to get into heaven.

So, what are they then? And why does Jesus begin His sermon with them?

I have offered my perspective:

  • We can’t divide the beatitudes up into their component parts; they all go together to form one composite picture.
  • Just as the “fruit of the Spirit” that Paul discusses is singular, so the beatitudes go together to describe the person who is “blessed” or “happy.”
  • The beatitudes then are attributes of people who have learned (or are learning) how to live a life here on earth that flourishes.
  • This flourishing occurs even in an environment that is hostile to human beings who bear the image of their Creator.

Some people push back on this approach to the beatitudes. The most common alternative view offered goes something like this:

The beatitudes are not things for us to do. They are not attributes toward which we should aspire. They are not things we can attain in this life. Instead, they are merely observations of conditions present within the audience at the moment followed by promises from God that he would one day reverse those conditions.

Blessed are all you who are poverty-stricken now!

(this is Luke’s version, Matthew “spiritualizes” it with,

Blessed are you who are poor in spirit)

Why? How? What makes us “blessed?” We can’t even feed our families.

Oh, well, you are blessed now because you have the hope that one day in the future,

You will go to heaven!

This view of the beatitudes leaves little room for us to apply them to our lives right here and right now. And, this view ignores Matthew’s obvious treatment of the Lord’s teaching.

Whereas Luke has Jesus speaking more to the here and now (blessed are you poor people, blessed are you hungry people), Matthew clearly broadens the implications of the beatitudes by his additions:

Blessed are you who are poor in spirit.

Blessed are you who hunger and thirst for righteousness.

The first view sees the beatitudes as only applying to a small group of people who lived 2,000 years ago. If this view is correct, I wonder what they are doing in the Bible and I wonder what we are doing studying them.

The second view sees the beatitudes as spiritual principles that are always true—in every age and for every human being living in this fallen world.

When Matthew has Jesus say, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness” he is saying, “Blessed are you who hunger for things to be made ‘right.’” And Jesus promises that those who have such a hunger and thirst “will be filled [satisfied, find the desire of their hearts].” (Matt. 5:6).

For me, the thing I want made right by God most is ME! After years of trying to live my life on my power, my smarts, my abilities, and my resources, I have come to the realization that such a life is unmanageable. I cannot live like that anymore.

Longing for things to be “right” will not produce happiness as the world defines happiness; on the contrary, longing for things in this world to be right will produce mourning.

Hungering and thirsting for God to make me “right,” and admitting to myself and to you that I am not right in spite of all the effort I have put into being right, causes no small amount of mourning within me.

But unless I am mistaken, Paul tells us that mourning (i.e., godly sorrow) leads us to repentance. And repentance leads us to life (freedom).

Knowing and freely admitting that I am not what I was designed to be, that I am living my life under self-will, that I have never fully surrendered to my Creator as my Lord and Master – knowing this and admitting this every day will produce a poverty of spirit within me.

Relinquishing my attempts to make myself valuable, to manipulate my existence to have it make sense in light of the values of this world, to make myself feel important and my life meaningful – repudiating this self-focused attitude and allowing God and God alone to define who I am, what my life means, and what gives my existence value, will transform me into a person of meekness.

Organizing my life so that I have a single purpose: to listen for God’s voice, to truly hear what He is saying about my existence, to obey what He says is right and what He says is wrong and to live accordingly, to focus on that objective and that objective alone each day I live, this will transform me into a person with a pure heart (singleness of mind, my heart unadulterated by desires that makes sense within this fallen age).

Of course, I will not be more pleasing to God because I choose to live into these new attitudes. I will not receive a more glorious place in heaven because I choose to embrace these values. I will not be higher on the pecking order among the children of God because I choose to live as God designed me to live here on earth (“Lord, let my sons sit on your right and left hand in your kingdom.”)

But I believe I will move into a life driven by the Spirit of God – right here and right now. And, to bring this all into the context of our purpose for this class, I can say from personal experience that my mental, emotional, and spiritual health will improve drastically when I move out of my self-propelled life and into the life God has designed for me, a life of surrender and obedience to Him as Lord.

So, I believe the beatitudes have much to say to us as followers of Jesus Christ. I believe they direct us into a Spirit-filled lifestyle. And I believe the Spirit of God heals us from our self-centeredness when we turn to Him in humble obedience.

The principles expressed in the beatitudes give me a visual image of the life for which my soul longs (my inner man mourns because it sees where it should be and knows where it actually is). They show me the person God has already made me “in Christ.” They show me what I want to be today, and tomorrow, and the day after that.

But I am getting ahead of myself. As the Lord will tell me later in the Sermon, all I have to worry about is today.

Therefore, today I choose to repudiate the principles by which I have been living my life to this point. Each day I choose to embrace the principles that my Lord tells me will lead me into “blessedness.” I choose to live a life that flourishes in God’s kingdom—right here and right now.

Be at peace.

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