Beatitudes: The Journey to Life

Have you ever read books or articles about the Beatitudes? I’ve kind of avoided them because I never seemed to get the same answers from whatever reference I was reading. When I think about it, it’s really sad how so many different “meanings” can come from one simple word or phrase.

For instance: “Poor in spirit”. How do we not understand that? It does not mean oppressed! I believe if it did, Jesus would have said oppressed, and yet there are people who believe that’s what it means. I have found more references to the lack of spiritual pride or humility before God, which I believe is the exact meaning Jesus was implying. After all, just look at His character.

I think the one I am surprised by the most is the term “mourners”. Everybody mourns, so does that mean god will comfort us all? I think there’s deeper meaning to this, such as Why do we mourn? I don’t think it’s because we have lost loved ones, or even because we know there are lost souls gone forever. It’s because we realize how much we have hurt God with our disobedience and sin. Honestly, it ties right in with being poor in spirit. We can’t appreciate our blatant rebellious sinfulness unless we are truly humbled before God. I guess this points out that so-called teachers of the Word have a lot to learn in terms of humility if they have missed this one. (That is if I’m correct in my interpretation.  Now, would THAT be funny??)

Where has this rant come from? I had an hour of free time the other day and I began to read my Bible. Interestingly enough, I began to read Matthew 5; the one area of Matthew I have avoided for so long. I actually read the entire sermon on the mount and it dawned on me (imagine a big sledgehammer whapping my head). Jesus actually explained the 8 Beatitudes in His sermon on the mount. If this sermon actually happened altogether the way it reads in Matthew, then no one walked away from there confused as to what Jesus was saying. Why are we so confused now?

He gives clear illustrations as to what it is to be humble: Matthew 6:1 “Take heed that you do not do your charitable deeds before men, to be seen by them Otherwise you have no reward from your Father in heaven.” What exactly is Jesus talking about when He mentions mourners? Is it for those people who have lost loved ones? Some teachers say that’s it, but Jesus didn’t talk about that at all. Instead, He spoke about repentance continuously. Isn’t it more likely He was talking about people who mourn the fact that they have betrayed God, who loves us unconditionally, with our blatant disobedience? We can’t repent unless we mourn our sin in our hearts. When we repent, we are comforted with the knowledge that we are forgiven.

He talks about the meek inheriting the earth. Jesus is our prime example of meekness. He never offered any arguments when He was accused, He simply allowed the persecution because He knew the outcome. When is the last time someone accused you of something you didn’t do and you simply allowed them to do it without fighting back? You already know the outcome, even if you have to go through many trials before you get to it, but the hard part is going through the trials and keeping faith in the eventual outcome. Jesus said, “Love your enemies. Do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you.” That’s meek and in the eyes of the world, that’s weakness. Funny how we forget how much strength it takes to not be moved by our emotions and remain faithful.

He talks about filling the hungry and the thirsty. He’s not talking about filling our bellies or there would be no famine in the world. He fills our spirits with his food of wisdom and faith as we consume His Word. He says, “Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.”  (Matthew 6: 33) First He fills our spirits, then He fills our needs and we don’t have to worry about any of it. We just need to make sure our needs don’t get confused with our wants, which may or may not always be in line with His Will.

He offers mercy to the merciful. Matthew 7:1-2 “Judge not, that you not be judged. For with what judgment you judge, you will be judged; and with the measure you use, it will be measure back to you.” I don’t think He could have explained any more simply and yet we still make excuses for our hypocritical judgments.

He gives vision of God to the pure in heart. Matthew 6:21 “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” When our hearts our pure, we are seeking God first and when we focus on seeking Him, we see Him in everything. Just look at the beauty of creation and see how magnificent He is. I certainly can’t deny him when I see the contrast of the perfect, blue sky and the green grass of the landscape, colored with flowers in the spring, bright green leaves on the trees in the summer, colorful autumn leaves as they change and the integrity of the strong, bare branches in the winter. It’s breathtaking and indeed a treasure for our hearts, but we tend to look more at the ever changing styles of clothes or cars or homes instead of what has already been given to us for free.

The peacemakers will be called sons of God. Peacemaking is forgiving. Jesus tells us plainly that “If you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Gather forgive your trespasses” (Matthew 6:14-15). You know the relief you feel when you are forgiven for something you may have done that hurt someone else? Isn’t it a blessing when you can give someone that relief, too?

And finally, the persecuted will receive the kingdom of heaven. I believe that all of these traits: Poor, mourning, meek, hungry/thirsty, merciful, pure in heart and peacemaking lead up to the persecution that we will surely experience just as Jesus did. If a person lives by all of these philosophies and truly loves others in his heart, he is going to be an outsider. But Jesus said that narrow road is the way to life and few people will find it. Thankfully, He didn’t say it was impossible, we just have to be ready to be the outsider and not be conformed to this world. It’s not easy to live this way because we get so caught up in life and distracted by the noise of the world. But that’s why it’s a journey and we will always be traveling.

Jesus is our example, the Holy Spirit is our guide and God is our focus. Every day is a new day and the opportunities for learning are everywhere. We don’t have to wait for a new year to make a resolution to change. God has given us the tools to take that step today. Now, I may not have interpreted the Beatitudes the way they were intended, but I believe I am a step closer to understanding them because of the detailed yet simple explanations Jesus gave in the sermon on the mount. It’s all together for a reason, and I believe it’s for quick reference when we hit a bump in the road on our journey.

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