Matthew Chapter 5 is one of my favorites in the entire bible, because Jesus sermon on the mount tells us exactly how He expects His followers to live. By coincidence (?), as I was preparing to write this blog, a missionary came to speak to us, and he told us to open our bibles to Matthew Chapter 5. This missionary is 85 years old and has been a missionary for just about all of his life, experiencing much discomfort in his living conditions, and he’s still going strong. He said that the beatitudes are all a missionary needs to know. If these are followed, then the missionary is a true missionary.
When I read these verses, I see the Jesus I fell in love with; the Jesus who I want to serve with every fiber of my being. The Jesus who I want to change my life for. In these verses, Jesus is telling me what He expects from me, as a follower of Him.
“God blesses those who are poor and realize their need for him, for the Kingdom of Heaven is theirs.“ – other versions say the “poor in spirit.” In order for us to receive Jesus, we must first be broken in some way. We have to admit our need for Him. We must be willing to bow down on our knees before Him and tell him that we can do nothing on our own. We cannot gain the kingdom of heaven through our own good behavior, good works or any other way. It is through His grace. But to receive His grace, we have to admit we need it. We have to admit that we are sinners, that we are “poor in spirit.” This is for all of us.
I also think He meant blessed are the poor. As I’ve said before, everyone is welcome to come to Jesus, the poor, the disabled, the broken. These were the people who Jesus sought when He was here on earth to heal them, to bless them, and to encourage them. To tell them that a better life is coming. Maybe Jesus is telling us too that all people matter to him equally, and they should matter to us too.
“God blesses those who mourn, for they will be comforted.” Many people are under the misconception that Christians don’t mourn. That nothing happens to us, our lives become perfect. Then when people’s lives aren’t perfect, they think they aren’t good enough Christians. This is why it’s so necessary for us to read our scripture. Bad things to happen to Christians, and often good things come out of those bad things. I sought Jesus on my own because I wasn’t happy with my life I was looking for answers. If my life had been perfect, I wouldn’t have sought Him. And after I found Him, if my life would have been perfect, I would have probably grown away from Him. I had a friend once who said that he didn’t really need Jesus because his life was just fine. I’m glad my life wasn’t fine, maybe my “not fine” life was a gift from God, because that life caused me to seek Him. Some of the times that I’ve felt closest to Jesus were times when I was hurting the most. And yes, I was comforted, and I know He will comfort me again when I need it. And I will comfort others, just as He has comforted me. “He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us.” 2 Corinthians 1:4.
“God blesses those who are humble, for they will inherit the whole earth.” Other translations of the bible say “blessed are the meek.” But based on the research I did, humble is a better word. What the commentaries basically say is that of we are offended, the humble, or the meek, are not weak…rather they are strong, because they don’t respond with bitterness or anger. If we are humble or meek, we don’t need titles or power to tell us that we have arrived, we have already arrived in God’s kingdom. If we trust in God for our reward, or to get what we feel we have earned, He will provide it. If a person has injured us, instead of lashing out at them, we can forgive and move on. We don’t have to address every wrong that is done to us. Jesus provided a great example of this. Who was humiliated more than Jesus was? They put a crown of thorns on Him, they whipped Him, they spit on Him. He had the power to kill all of them, or at least to damn them to eternal life in Hell, but He didn’t. He didn’t respond at all, because He knew that God was ultimately in control. He trusted God. In fact, Jesus forgave them! Just as we should. I know that this doesn’t mean we should let people walk all over us, but sometimes when people offend us or we are treated unjustly, no response is more of a sign of strength instead of responding in kind.
“God blesses those who hunger and thirst for justice, for they will be satisfied.” I am a person who is very interested in social justice, so I love this verse! First of all, hunger and thirst means deep yearning, and in this verse he is saying blessed are those who have a deep yearning for justice. This is another example though, of different translations. Most translations say those who hunger and thirst for righteousness. I like that word too. Does it mean righteousness as in good and moral conduct? I think we should be concerned with our morality all of the time. Our God is a moral God, and we should try to be our best for Him. Jesus was sinless, and that was His example to us. Scripture tells us what we should and shouldn’t do, and we should always try our best to live by scripture. We don’t always succeed, but we keep on trying.
But God is also interested in justice. Some say this verse may be based upon Isaiah 61, which starts with this:
The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is upon me,
for the Lord has anointed me
to bring good news to the poor.
He has sent me to comfort the brokenhearted
and to proclaim that captives will be released
and prisoners will be freed.
To read the rest of Isaiah 61, which is BEAUTIFUL, click here. One of my yearnings is to find justice for people who can’t defend themselves – the poor, the disadvantaged, or people who are just ignored because they don’t have the right credentials or money. When people hurt me or push me aside, I do try to be humble (I TRY), but when I see it done to others, maybe God is using me to rescue them???? I’d like to think so.
“God blesses those who are merciful, for they will be shown mercy.” First of all, what is mercy? Most people use it interchangeably with “forgiveness.” And that is part of it, we are called to forgive those who hurt us. In fact, Matthew 6:15 says “But if you refuse to forgive others, your Father will not forgive your sins.” It’s pretty clear, we must forgive others. But mercy means more than forgiveness. Vocabulary.com has a great definition of mercy. It says that it has to do with compassion, forgiveness and leniency. Dictionary.com’s definition is “compassion or forgiveness shown toward someone whom it is within one’s power to punish or harm.” There’s that word compassion again. When and where are we supposed to use compassion? Always!!!! In my teens I read a lot of historical romances (hey, don’t knock it, it gave me a thirst for learning). I will always remember something I read in one of those books. A woman received the advice to always understand and love your enemies. If you understand them…if you understand what motivates them and what makes them do the things they do, they cannot hurt you. And I take that a step further, sometimes you can even love them. If someone is bullying you, it’s painful, but if you learned that that bully has been brutally beaten by his father and he was just passing on what he knew, could you still hate him? Mercy means forgiveness and compassion.
Have you ever taken a spiritual gifts test? Some people have the gift of mercy that they can use for God’s kingdom. What is the definition of Mercy in the context of a spiritual gift? The definition is: “A mercy-giver’s basic motivational drive is to sense and respond to the emotional and spiritual needs of others. Those with the mercy motivational gift have a divine ability to sense hurt and respond to it with love and understanding.” I’ve heard the saying that “hurting people hurt people.” If we could stop people from hurting, maybe they won’t hurt others. We can help stop the hurt. This is mercy. And those who show this mercy will receive it from God.
Gee, when I first read this verse, I thought it was just so obvious, so I was going to say blessed are the merciful…nuff said. But I found all kinds of good info!
“God blesses those whose hearts are pure, for they will see God.” At first glimpse, we think of purity as keeping ourselves clean from sin. That’s only part of is. 1 Timothy 1:5 says “The purpose of my instruction is that all believers would be filled with love that comes from a pure heart, a clear conscience, and genuine faith.” Someone with a pure heart serves without any motivations other than to please God. They are loyal and sincere, and transparent. In all of their motives, they are seeking God, and Jesus assures us that those of us who can maintain a pure heart will see Him. Can any of us say that we do things purely for God, to please Him, without any other motivations? Do we serve and not want the credit for it? Do we not do something because it’s not legal or do we not do it because we’re afraid we’ll get caught? Is everything we do purely out of our love for God?
“God blesses those who work for peace, for they will be called the children of God.” What does it mean to pursue peace? Currently I’m reading a book about whether Christians should ever condone war. Should we be pacifists, or should we believe in “just” wars, or should we go the whole hawg with the Old Testament and say sometimes God wants war? I don’t know the answer. But peacemaking means more than this. It also means healing rifts in relationships. Jesus says we must love our enemies. When we are known as peacemakers, we are known as children of God. I want to be known as a child of God.
“God blesses those who are persecuted for doing right, for the Kingdom of Heaven is theirs. God blesses you when people mock you and persecute you and lie about you and say all sorts of evil things against you because you are my followers. Be happy about it! Be very glad! For a great reward awaits you in heaven. And remember, the ancient prophets were persecuted in the same way.” This topic has arisen a lot lately. Many people feel that Christians are being persecuted in America because of the lack of prayer in school or because of a gay agenda. Persecution is being harmed for living according to God’s will. It means being persecuted while identifying with Jesus and His mission. We may face persecution for pursuing God’s call for our lives, but how are we supposed to respond? We are supposed to be happy about it! I hear so much anger these days, but persecution brings joy, because it will be rewarded. Not as a “prize” we have earned, but because God is just, and if we trust Him, things will work out.