We often misunderstand what blessings are. Most people focus on blessings as a result of some action on our part. We think we are blessed because we did… (insert a random pious action here). But Jesus turns this all on its head in the Sermon on the Mount. Mathew Chapters 5-7 are Jesus’ most important teaching about how people should live out a life that is faithful to God, world, and neighbor. Jesus’ manifesto in Matthew 5 not only focuses on blessings as a result of following God, but also more importantly, as gifts from God to follow God. Blessings are grace. Blessings are also the fuel that helps us in the daily fight of living in a broken and sinful word.
“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”
Jesus directly contradicts the pagan messages of the so called “prosperity gospel” or the American cultural idea of “the power of positive thinking.” We are given encouragement to be honest with ourselves and our real situation in life. The times when things are not going right, and we are losing heart, are precisely the times when God promises to come. Jesus reminds us elsewhere that he came not for the righteous but the sinners. To paraphrase, not for those who stuff is together, but those whose lives are falling apart.
“Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.”
Grief and loss are part of living in a world in bondage to death, blessings are that which God gives us so that we do not give into despair. The gospel of Jesus Christ is for those times when we experience the most profound losses.
“Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.”
We are culturally conditioned to honor the assertive, aggressive, and narcissistic. Celebrities, athletes and CEO’s have replaced Zeus, Hera, Aphrodite and Apollo in our modern pagan pantheon. We would rather choose a celebrity to lord it over us than a committed public servant. In contrast, God honors the humble, empowers the kind, and inspires those who consider the lives of others as well as themselves. Because we can’t love our neighbors if no one even bother to think about them.
“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.”
Those who want things to improve are working for the healing of our world, therefore why wouldn’t God bless them to continue their important work? These are the people we don’t like while they are alive and lionize when they are dead. In order to fix things, we must do things, and our laziness demands we put targets on these people’s backs. Those who work for justice are God’s allies in the healing of our world.
“Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy.”
Mercy is how God chooses to engage us. When we show mercy, we conform our lives to Christ. We often don’t like mercy because it is inherently unfair, we are letting someone off the hook. Yet as the incarnation reminds us, God choose maintaining a relationship over abstract fairness. Without mercy we remain in a prison of our own making.
“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.”
If we can’t see the good in our world, our fellow human beings. and life itself, it will be hard to see God because God is good. When we give into cynicism, we build a wall around ourselves neighbors and world. The pure heart keeps the door open to the good and therefore God.
“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.”
Jesus was sent by God to put a fractured world, broken communities and divided hearts back together. The Hebrew/Aramaic word for peace that Jesus used meant to be whole. Those who do and make peace help make people, families, communities and nations whole. They are blessed because they are part of the healing.
“Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”
Our society and often even our churches will not honor those who are the most faithful; we will judge others using our own fallible criteria. So, we need a Godly vision, lest we perish, and that vision is the Kingdom of Heaven. The Apostle Paul writes: And he died for all, so that those who live might live no longer for themselves, but for him who died and was raised for them. 2 Corinthians 5:15 (NRSV) The Kingdom of God is predicated on a single common humanity. This core idea of our faith is under direct assault. Those who work for it are persecuted and abused, yet they keep up the fight. They are able to because they are blessed. Blessing is the fuel for our Spiritual warfare, so be blessed and keep the faith.