3 “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
4 “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.
5 “Blessed are the gentle, for they shall inherit the earth.
6 “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.
7 “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.
8 “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.
9 “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.
10 “Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
11 “Blessed are you when men cast insults at you, and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely, on account of Me.
12 “Rejoice, and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
(Matthew 5:3-12, NASB).
I’m supposed to be finishing a review of the sessions I attended at the Mockingbird conference, but I’m skipping that again. Just go to mbird.com and download them, they’re awesome. I’m also in the middle of a study of 1 John, so I’m following a rabbit trail here. However, the sermon on the mount comes up so much in discussions and I find it so helpful and so brilliant that I am going to pause from my labors and look at it.
I’m working from this outline:
* Beatitudes – Jesus declares grace and reward
* Declaration beatitudes (no qualification other than having it bad)
* Poor in spirit – kingdom of heaven
* Mourn – comfort
* Meek – inherit the earth
* Transitional beatitude (want but not have)
* Hunger and thirst for righteousness – satisfied
* Reward Beatitudes (gift given for what you should be anyway; not a price, but a reward )
* Merciful – mercy
* Pure in heart – see God
* Peacemaker – called sons of God
* Persecuted – kingdom of heaven, reward is great
* Salt, city on hill, light: let your light shine
* Law – Jesus did not come to abolish the Law or the Prophets, but to fulfill
* Murder (angry with brother, guilty of the fires of hell.)
* Adultery ( if you look, whole body thrown in hell )
* False Vows ( anything other than yes or no is evil)
* Eye for an eye
* instead: don’t resist him who is evil
* turn the other cheek
* take shirt, give him coat
* force one mile, go two
* give to him who wants to borrow from you
* Love neighbor, hate enemy
* no, love your enemy
* Be Perfect as Your Father in Heaven
* How to practice the blessed life
* righteousness not before others
* alms: in secret
* prayer: in secret, like this
* fasting: in secret
* daily bread
* treasures: in heaven, in secret
* not anxious for food, clothing
* don’t judge
* ask, and it shall be given to you
* golden rule: however you want to be treated, so treat others
* How to respond to His message
* enter by narrow gate
* false prophets – known by their fruits
* Lord Lord didn’t we?
* house on rock, and house on sand
I want to start with some large overall insights. In the list of blessings, any match qualifies you for that blessing or reward. It is the same for the curses of the law — any match qualifies you for the curse. Here’s what I mean: if you are poor in spirit, you don’t also have to be a peacemaker to receive the blessing of inheriting the kingdom of God. You only have to be poor in spirit. If you hunger and thirst for righteousness, but do not mourn, you will still be satisfied but perhaps not comforted in the same sense. Any match under the paradigm of the free gift gives you that blessing. The curse is the same way. If you are not angry with your brother yet you look at a woman to lust, you are guilty of the fires of hell. If you don’t look at a woman to lust, yet you are angry with your brother, you are still guilty of the fires of hell. Any match qualifies you for the curse.
I have not until recently looked carefully at the specific beatitudes. There is a sequence to them. He starts with the poor in spirit. I love the way He puts this. Zacchaeus was rich in money, but was despised in human society and was short physically. He considered himself to be poor in spirit, in need of Jesus’ favor. The Pharisees considered themselves to be righteous under the law and so considered themselves to be rich in spirit. It wasn’t a matter of money — it was a matter of self-consideration.
I think that anyone who is simply honest will end up considering themselves poor in spirit. It is only the self-deceived that cannot qualify for this. This is most amazing, because the greatest and most sweeping and most valuable blessing of all is promised to the poor in spirit: the kingdom of heaven is simply given to them.
Poorness of spirit is the umbrella description for several of the rest of the blessedness qualifiers. If you mourn, it seems reasonable to say that you are poor in spirit. If you are meek, likewise. If you hunger and thirst for righteousness, you acknowledge your lack thereof and your powerlessness to obtain it; this qualifies for poorness of spirit. However, it bears saying that one could be poor in spirit without necessarily being hungry and thirsty for righteousness and still receive the blessing of inheriting the kingdom. A grieving mother could be poor in spirit, receive the kingdom, and be comforted, without couching it all as a hunger and thirst for behavioral virtue. This doesn’t remove the primary blessings accorded her, but since she did not approach it from the angle of a hunger for behavioral transformation, she did not receive that kind of satisfaction.
If you are merciful, you have been harmed undeservedly and I think this qualifies you for poorness of spirit. If you are persecuted, it means you have many active enemies who hate you simply for doing what is right. I think this qualifies you for poorness of spirit, although you could be persecuted for a sanctimonious and self-serving righteousness and that does not stem from poorness of spirit. However, Jesus also qualifies the reason for the persecution, that it is because of Him. This means that it is poorness of spirit and its subsequent gift of blessedness which engenders the persecution, and this is the kind of persecution which is rewarded.
A note about the concept of reward. A reward is not the same as a paycheck. A reward is a gift given for a particular act of valor or sacrifice. The act of valor or sacrifice was not performed in order to receive a payment, but the reward is only given to those who so qualify. A soldier who has risked his life to save others may receive a purple heart, but in the moment he did it to save lives, not to get a purple heart. This is the notion. Grace does not preclude reward, it simply goes beyond it in giving gifts when there is no meritorious valor. Grace does not withhold rewards for merit simply to maintain that it is a free gift. It gives wherever it wishes – in some cases merited and in some cases unmerited. There is no affront to grace to say that in some cases reward is granted in acknowledgment of good service. However, if one begins to believe that no gift can be given unless it is merited, one comes under law. It is a great grace to tell a young man that he has done a good job or that he has done well at something; he longs to grow up into such abilities and acknowledgments. Grace affords space for the valor of service and sacrifice even though the greatest blessings are given to all regardless of their poorness of spirit or meekness.
More to come!