“I’m so blessed.” We hear those words a lot, don’t we. Usually they follow some sort of good news we were hoping and praying for...maybe a new job, car, our dream home, or a good medical report. We hear those words on the Oscars or Emmys as a the winner steps up to the microphone and says, “Man, I just can’t believe this. I’m sooo blessed.”
But when Jesus talked about blessings in his Sermon on the Mount, he was talking about what we are, not what we receive. It wasn’t so much about feelings, as it was about following. Let me just tick through the list and offer a thought or two about each, especially as we begin a new year.
1. He starts with a bombshell. “Blessed are the poor in spirit.” Being poor in spirit means we realize that we have nothing to offer God (or anyone else) except our sorry, sinful, needy, broken, screwed-up, selves. The first Beatitude tells us: “God blesses people who understand and acknowledge that without Him, they’re woefully inadequate.
2. “Blessed are those who mourn.” People who mourn don’t sugar coat their sin. They don’t say “I misspoke;” they say, “I lied.” They don’t say, “I made a mistake,” they say “I sinned...against God and others.” We're not just “mistakers” friends, we’re sinners. Not a popular thought in today’s culture.
I remember how happy I was when I first confessed my sins and mourned over them. God was able to step into my life and I was ready to receive him. He comforted me with His peace.
3. “Blessed are the meek.” The word “humble” is a better translation. Humility basically means taking 2nd place instead of 1st place whenever you can. Think of Jesus washing his disciples’ feet. Humble people don’t pull rank; they live low. They defer. They clap and cheer over others’ success, instead of craving applause for themselves.
4. "Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness.” I would define righteousness as passion for the word and will of God. It’s a heart bent toward pleasing God. It’s good to say, “I want Jesus. Better to say, “I need Jesus.” But best to say, “I must have you, Jesus. I must.” God blesses THAT kind of life. He fills empty hands.
C.S. Lewis was right, “God can’t give us happiness and peace apart from Himself, because it’s not there! There’s no such thing.” Good word.
5. "Blessed are the merciful." Mercy begins with sympathy. No sympathy, no mercy. Mercy puts feet on sympathy and takes action. Sympathy is feeling another’s pain. Mercy is doing something about it; it’s helping and healing.
Mercy is powerful weapon in a world gone crazy as we get to display God’s love by extending mercy to others. Our anger will never change the world. Mercy is our best shot. As Paul said, “The greatest of these...is love.”
6. "Blessed are the pure in heart." This word “pure” is used about two dozen times in the N.T. It means “without contamination.” It’s the same through and through. It’s not a mixture of things; it’s all one thing. Like pure gold, it has no trace metals in it--it’s gold, and only gold. People who are “pure” in heart are the same through and through. No duplicity. They don’t become different people in different crowds. I think the word authentic best describes being pure in heart.
7. "Blessed are the peacemakers." Peacemaking isn’t perpetual niceness. On the contrary it’s usually messy and difficult. It’s not avoiding conflict; it’s navigating through it so that everyone can find a better path forward. Sometimes peacemaking fails; it backfires, which is why Paul said, “If possible, as much as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.” (Romans 12:18). Those two words, “If possible,” say a lot. Nevertheless, we give it our best shot.
8. Finally, He says, "Blessed are those who are persecuted for doing right." That may put us in the minority in today’s world; people might even think we’re weird, but that’s okay. They might not like us; they may even mistreat us; that’s okay. They mistreated Jesus and Joseph, Daniel and David, Peter and Paul, and all the other apostles. The principle is this: Light always dispels darkness. When we walk in the light, we will likely become a target for someone who would rather walk in darkness.
It’s 2019, friends. Happy New Year! I suggest you enjoy it a day-at-a-time, and as you do, be blessed. The Beatitudes aren't a recipe for reward; they’re a way of life...a blessed life.