Now when he saw the crowds, he went up on a mountainside and sat down. His disciples came to him, and he began to teach them … Matthew 5:1-2
The passage of Scripture known as the “Beatitudes” introduced what is arguably the most well-known sermon of all time, Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount. I had always considered the Beatitudes beautiful, poetic, and sweet. To me the passage sounded philosophically profound, but not exactly practical. (At least I didn’t know what to do with it.)
Then one Sunday while visiting a church I didn’t normally attend, I heard a message that was the beginning of a series on the Beatitudes. There, in a formal, ritualistic setting, where frankly I didn’t expect to hear anything new or profound, the pastor approached this passage from a different perspective, as the story of Redemption. And although I heard only the beginning of the series, I could tell where the minister was going with it, and I pursued that train of thought in my own studies of the Bible.
Ever since then I have thought of the Beatitudes as a sort of snapshot of the gospel, a “Readers’ Digest version” of the journey of a soul from being utterly lost to being saved, mature, and Christ-like.
“Blessed” here means “happy,” and the “Be-attitudes” tell what the right attitudes are to be ultimately, truly happy. Although some of them do not sound happy at all (“poor in spirit,” “mourn,” “hunger and thirst”), when approached with the right attitude, all these things can lead to the kind of happiness most people can only dream of.
So here, step by step, are what I see as the attitudes we need when faced with the circumstances in life that are inevitable to all of us:
1.) “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” (vs. 3)
Each and every one of us sooner or later falls into in a state of spiritual bankruptcy. Some of us reach the point where we are ready to admit it, but some aren’t quite there yet; either we are blind to our own condition, or we are in denial. Either way, the wrong attitude can be a roadblock on the journey to true happiness.
WRONG ATTITUDE: “Nothin’ wrong with me.”
RIGHT ATTITUDE: “I’m lost!“
2.) “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.” (vs. 4)
It’s not enough to realize we are woefully lacking in the spiritual area of life. Some see “spirituality” as more of a personality trait. They might figure, “I’m not that type,” and decline to pursue being “that type.” But denying that one state is better than another will only be another roadblock.
WRONG ATTITUDE: “Yeah, I’m lost. So what?“
RIGHT ATTITUDE: “I’m lost, and this is bad!“
3.) “Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.” (vs. 5)
Contrary to popular belief, meekness isn’t weakness. It isn’t self-loathing or an inferiority complex. It is, rather, having an honest, realistic perspective of ourselves. In the spiritual realm meekness involves being willing to take responsibility for our own attitudes and actions, which is in fact a strong quality to have. As much as the “Blame Game” is in vogue these days, blaming others will only bring our salvation journey to a screeching halt. Whatever part anyone else has played in where I am today, the only person I have any control over is myself. I need the meekness to admit, “I am the one responsible for where I am.” This admission is the beginning of repentance, and a vibrant relationship with God requires repentance up front. Experiencing sorrow over our sins doesn’t seem like a very “happy” place to be, but it is the doorway to much better things!
WRONG ATTITUDE: “My life is a mess, and it’s bad, but it’s my parents’ (or my teachers’ or society’s) fault! “
RIGHT ATTITUDE: “I’m lost, I’m in trouble, and I am to blame.“
Now if we’re honest with ourselves, we have to add, “and I can’t do anything to help myself!“ which brings us to
The Turning Point
4.) “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.” (vs 6)
Now that we’ve faced up to our condition, recognized that it’s not good, and admitted that it’s our own fault, do we just sink into depression, self-loathing, and hopelessness?
I would say, “Without God, yeah …”
But we are NOT without God – or we don’t have to be! Jesus came to show us the heart of a God who loves us and pursues us, even when we run away from Him. The point of “hungering and thirsting” for something better, the point at which we decide to stop running, can be the turning point of our lives. Jesus said later in the same sermon, “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened to you.” (Matthew 7:7) He is the One who can exchange our sin for His righteousness, and He wants to!
WRONG ATTITUDE: “Poor, horrible me! I’m hopeless.“
RIGHT ATTITUDE: “I’m lost, it’s bad, and it’s my fault. But I want something better!“
The Good News (the “gospel”) is that we can have something better. We were created for something better! Those who have reached the point where we realize our lost predicament, own up to it, and turn to God for the remedy – they are people on the threshold of what Jesus called “abundant life!”
Next week we’ll see what the remaining Beatitudes tell us about walking in that abundance, and how much further God’s grace will take us!
Prayer: Dear Lord, thank You for opening our eyes to our lostness, our misery, and our sin, and for making us aware that You offer a better life to those who desire it and turn to You. Thank You for being willing to free us from our old way of life. Make us willing to receive the new life You offer by faith. In Jesus’ name, Amen.