I don’t know how familiar you are with your Bible, but in Matthew 5-7 Jesus delivers what has traditionally been called “The Sermon on the Mount.” Without entering the scholarly debate over the purpose, intent, and audience of the Sermon, I would like to work through it over the next few weeks.
Jesus begins the Sermon with what has become known as the Beatitudes (or Blessings). This is a vitally important piece of the text, and a good clue as to what the point of the whole message was. Who are the blessed? Whose life gets the verdict of blessed by Holy God? Jesus starts with that. Before ever going into issues of murder, adultery, divorce, giving, etc, He addresses the heart. For our purposes, we will take verses 11-12 as a separate section. Here are verses 3-10:
“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
“Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.
“Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.
“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.
“Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.
“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.
“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.
“Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Okay, let’s take a closer look at the first of these. The first question we really need to answer is, “what does it mean to be blessed?” The word “blessed” carries the idea of “favored, happy, fortunate.” The concept that Jesus is communicating in the Beatitudes is a simple one. Who lives under the favor or blessing of God? Who gets to experience in a very tangible way His smile and the warmth of His approval?
The first answer to that question is “the poor in spirit.” This marks our attitude in relationship to God. The one who is truly poor in spirit is the one who recognize their spiritual condition before a Holy God. See, it becomes very easy for me to see myself in a light far better than reality. It is easy for me to think that my pile of sin smells just a little less than yours. For the person who does not see themselves as God sees them, there is no blessing, for they cannot understand their need of redemption, because the natural question that is asked is, “what do I need to be redeemed from? I can see how Jesus died to save drug dealers and prostitutes, but I don’t need that.” But if we aren’t careful this same attitude can creep into our mentality as believers. We can forget who we were, and look with disdain at the lost around us, forgetting our previous state. This does not bring the favor and blessing of God.
The verse finishes with the phrase, “for the kingdom of heaven is theirs.” What a thought! The kingdom is not for the proud, the self-righteous, the self-made, or the particularly intelligent, gifted, or wealthy. In fact, all of these people will have a particularly tough time making the cut (because it is harder for them to see themselves as poor in spirit). The kingdom will be inhabited by those who have seen themselves and their sinfulness in light of the holiness of God, and have cast themselves on His mercy, claiming the blood and finished work of Christ. Those are the ones who will be blessed and will see heaven.
But this isn’t just a promise for the hereafter. It carries great weight for my life today. Just like much of Paul’s theology- which states, “here’s what you are, now live like it,” Christ is also driving as a kingdom reality that needs to be lived out daily. How do I experiencing the blessing, favor, and smile of my Father? By never forgetting who I was, and living each day as one who was dead and broken, but who has been made alive in Christ. What a blessing. I would love to hear from you about specific ways you have sought to live this truth out in your own life. Feel free to post here or email me directly at email@example.com.