Matthew 5.1-12 – The Beatitudes
A college student wrote the following note home:
Dear Mom and Dad:
I’m sorry to be so long in writing. Unfortunately, all my stationery was destroyed the night our dorm was set on fire by the demonstrators. I’m out of the hospital now, and the doctors say my eyesight should return — sooner or later. The wonderful boy, Bill, who rescued me from the fire, kindly offered to share his little apartment with me until the dorm is rebuilt. He comes from a good family, so you won’t be surprised when I tell you we’re going to be married. In fact, since you’ve always wanted a grandchild, you’ll be glad to know that you’ll be grandparents next month.
P.S. Please disregard the above practice for my class in English Composition. There was no fire, I haven’t been in the hospital, I’m not pregnant and I don’t even have a steady boyfriend. But I did get a D in French and an F in Chemistry, and I just wanted to be sure you received this news in the proper perspective.
Things don’t always go the way we want them to go in life. And sometimes we have some tough things to touch our lives. The first four of the Beatitudes speak of such times:
3Blessed are the poor (in spirit),
4Blessed are those who mourn,
5Blessed are the meek,
6Blessed are those who hunger and thirst (for
[Luke does not include the parenthetical.]
Lacking what we want or need
Many times we find ourselves in situations where we don’t have what we want.
Being poor is not having the money or possessions we want. Being poor in spirit is knowing our reliance upon God and his grace.
Mourning is have lost something/someone of value: loss of a loved one, loss of income (job, demotion), loss of health/activity, even the empty nest syndrome when the last of the children have moved out of the house and all is quiet.
Meekness is to be lowly, to not have status, admiration, respect, approval; at the extreme, pride, arrogance, self-importance.
Hunger and thirst is lack of food, the very necessity of life; hunger and thirst of righteousness is a longing for justice, for things to be made right.
Desiring these characteristics
These groups seem to represent less than perfect situations, but Jesus lifts them up as desirable.
You could say they are desirable because if you have them, then you get good things:
the kingdom of heaven; comforted; inherit the earth; will be filled.
Perspective, Attitude, Response
I think the little story I opened with, the letter from the college student, very much points us in the right direction. It is all about perspective. It’s about attitude. It’s about how we respond to the bad things that happen in life.
3Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; 4perseverance, character; and character, hope.
The benefits of suffering
Suffering can accomplish something in our lives, if we let it.
~If we choose to persevere through the tough times (the ability to handle pressure),
~our character will be developed (character is what the Beatitudes is about, who we are inside, about being reliable)
~and we will have hope. Hope is about having Christ, relying on his strength and power.
And in the Beatitudes it’s about those good things: the kingdom of heaven; comforted; inherit the earth; will be filled. There are promises attached.
Many of our troubles are only temporary. And we act as if it is the end of the world. We can choose to complain or get angry, or grow bitter. Or we can choose to persevere, knowing that God is with us and knowing that he will bring good of this situation. And we will bring good of every situation, even if our suffering is not temporary.
Now, I am not diagnosed with a life-threatening illness, nor do I have any physical challenges, so I don’t speak from personal experience; but, even in that kind of suffering or trouble, God does not desert. God is there and at work in your life, if you allow him. If you persevere. Someone with cancer voiced his basic attitude as one of if he beats this cancer thing, great and if not he knows where he’s going. Paul’s words (in the midst of his suffering) came to mind, “To live is Christ, to die is gain.”
Hope is knowing the whole story. It’s knowing that there is more than this life. Hope is knowing that even when health alludes us in this life, there is an eternity where we will be well. That even if I am treated unjustly in this life, there is an eternity, where all will be well. I may be sad for a period here, but I can rejoice, because there will be a time when there will be no more sadness.
That’s keeping perspective! And that influences our attitude and response to the troubles we face today.
The story of Job
Job was a good and righteous man. He lost all that he owned: all his animals and servants (representing his livelihood and wealth); he lost his sons and daughters, and then his own health. His own wife said “curse God and die.” But Job retained his integrity. At the end of the book, in chapter 42 we read:
5 My ears had heard of you
but now my eyes have seen you.
Even a righteous man like Job, had something to learn from his trials and suffering. He emerged from his suffering closer to God, seeing God more clearly, gaining perspective in life.
Jesus instructions in the Beatitudes is for us to develop this kind of character: poor, mourning, meek and to hunger and thirst.
“This is what you should be like…”
I have never heard anyone set out to be in poor in life. We used to laugh at my little cousin, he was an unexpected baby, and when he was probably as young as 6-7, he would say he was going to be rich. Our society respects and honors success.
And I am not telling you to go try to be poor. Jesus’ words remind us that we have nothing when we stand before him. Maybe a better way for us to understand is to ask ourselves, “What makes us rich?” “In what do we place the highest value?” “What or who do we yearn for?”
Emptying ourselves and yearning for God
Lent is a time of emptying ourselves of the things of the world. It is a time of to “Give up and Take up” as is stated in Bishop Jane Middleton’s Lenten letter. We give up the things of the world to take up spiritual things. Fasting is giving up physical food, so that we realize that we “don’t live by bread alone.” So that we might yearn for God and be filled with spiritual food.
In reading Marva Dawn’s book, “A Royal Waste of Time: the splendor of worshipping God and being church for the world,” I was challenged to give up tv for Lent. And already I am reaping the benefits. There are spiritual benefits and also it is more quality time with my spouse.
This Lent, don’t just give up something this year, take up something, something that will nurture or awaken your yearning for God. Seek to be poor, [to mourn], to be meek, to hunger and thirst … after God.