3 “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 4 Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. 5 Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth. 6 Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled. 7 Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy. 8 Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God. 9 Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God. 10 Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
11 “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. 12 Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
Ever since the Garden of Eden, there have been two primary ways to pursue being happy. The first is the way of the world. Satan first whispered this into Eve’s ear so very many years ago. It is a way which tells us that power and control, possessions and status are the way to being truly happy. It is a way which tells us you can’t possibly be happy without the fancy title at work, the new car, the big house, the perfect family, and the accolades of your peers. But those things are fleeting. Those things can disappear in an instant.
The other way to pursue being happy is to live as God has called us to live. To put others first and trust in God to provide our daily needs. To worry only about what God thinks of us, not what our co-workers think of us. It is a way of living which acknowledges that all we have from God and so the glory for whatever small thing we accomplish in that day belongs to God. It is a way which doesn’t make a lot of sense according to the world’s standards but it does being sense when you begin to understand just who Jesus was and how he wants to work in you.
Jesus outlines this different way of living in the teaching known as the Beatitudes which are part of a larger teaching known as the Sermon on the Mount. This teaching completely flipped upside-down what religious leaders of the day considered signs of God being pleased with you and therefore blessing you in this life. In the first century, religious leaders considered your poverty as a sign God was punishing you for some sin in your life. Your sicknesses or illnesses were also signs of God’s punishment for sin. With each pronouncement in the Beatitudes, Jesus challenges his followers, both then and now, to consider a reward which is eternal instead of earthly.
Ultimately, the Beatitudes show us what a redeemed life in the Kingdom of God looks like. It’s interesting because much of what Jesus calls “blessed” are things which we actually spend a lot of time avoiding. However, how many times have we waited to turn to God, to truly rely on His strength and wisdom, until we hit some hard times? It is often in our brokenness we find God and this is part of what makes those times a blessing. Additionally, Jesus is teaching us that happiness ultimately is not found by putting ourselves first but it is built around living out love of God and love for one another.
It is important to remember that the promises Jesus makes here matter. Each time Jesus says, “for they shall,” he is promising something of immense value. He is promising something that no amount of striving and good deeds could ever earn. They are gifts given by God to those who are in relationship with Him. They are a reminder and summary of Jesus’ teachings in which a blessed life, a flourishing life, is a life which leans into and embraces a deep need for God.
During our Recharge retreats this fall we are going to be digging into the Beatitudes with the youth who come to camp and so over the coming weeks, we will also be digging into the Beatitudes here on the blog. The theme for the Recharge is simply the word “Happy” because the Beatitudes point to the way to a life which seeks out lasting, long term, eternal happiness and joy rather than settling for the fleeting, temporary happiness the world offers. We hope you’ll join us for the series as we look at how God is working in the midst of the harder stuff of life.
Follow Up: - Music is often a great way to remember and meditate on Scripture and the Beatitudes are no exception. Check out the video below for a song which was sung as part of the Gospel reading one Sunday at a church I attended. It has always stuck with me to help me remember what the Beatitudes are. Is there a song which has helped you remember them?
- If you were to write a list of “beatitudes” from a worldly perspective, what would they look like? What would the world consider blessed and what could it promise?
- Take some time to read over the Beatitudes at the top of the post. Which one seems the strangest for you? Which one seems like it just might not be worth the promise made? Why?