Do you feel blessed? There are some people who respond all the time with “I’m blessed”, but there are others who feel like they are on the other end of the spectrum: “un-blessed”, or whatever the opposite of being blessed is.
In Matthew 5:3-12, we find a list of what is often called the “Beatitudes”: a list of various groups of people who are blessed. What’s nice is that Jesus doesn’t merely enumerate certain types of people, He also states why or how they are (or will be) blessed. If you haven’t read the entire list recently, I encourage you to do so (here’s a link: Matthew 5:3-12), starting with the following:
“Blessed are the poor in spirit,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn,
for they will be comforted.
Blessed are the meek,
for they will inherit the earth.
Matthew 5:3-5 NIV
These Beatitudes are encouraging, since the world would probably consider many of the people in these groups to be “less than”. Think about it: the modern definition of success doesn’t include mourning or meekness. It doesn’t include persecution, insults, and being lied about. In the “upside-down” world of the Kingdom of Heaven, the last are first (see Matthew 19:30), and some situations that look pretty bad are actually blessed by God.
I’d like to look at each of these Beatitudes in kind of “reverse order”. Let’s start by taking a look at the blessings for each:
- Receiving the kingdom of heaven
- Being comforted
- Inheriting the earth
- Being filled
- Being shown mercy
- Seeing God
- Being called children of God
- Receiving the kingdom of heaven (mentioned a second time)
- And having a great reward in heaven
That’s a pretty great list of blessings! Once we understand the blessings, though, let’s go back and look at the kinds of people who are receiving those blessings. Many of these don’t look like what we might think, especially if we get our idea of success from commercials (or from Instagram).
- Poor in spirit
- In mourning
- Hungry and thirsty for righteousness
- Pure in heart
- Persecuted for doing the right thing
- Lied about
We don’t always think that people in these situations are blessed. Yes, our culture might appreciate some of those who are trying to make peace between conflicting groups, but mourning and meekness aren’t really “cool” these days. Today, when someone is insulted or persecuted (or even lied about), others often pile on, rather than seeing them as blessed.
Jesus knew what He was doing, though, when He described the groups first, and then shared their blessings. The Sermon on the Mount tells us what Jesus’ kingdom is like, and Jesus came for the sick, not those who think that they are already healthy. He ate with sinners and outcasts, and washed dirty feet. We’re not going to be able to apply secular, sinful logic to the realities of Jesus’ kingdom, but He took the time to explain to us (along with those first-century disciples) how it does work. This is the way things are, whether we expect it or not; whether we believe it or not.
“Blessed” vs. “Not Blessed” may not be quite as obvious as we think. Let’s ponder what it means to be blessed (even when we don’t look like we are currently successful) in light of Jesus’ teachings, and get into this topic a little more tomorrow.
Based on Sunday School Lesson prepared for January 3, 2021.
- LESSON FOR JAN. 3, 2021: BACKWARD BLESSINGS, by Mark Scott: https://christianstandard.com/2020/12/lesson-for-jan-3-2021-backward-blessings-matthew-51-16/
- DO THE OPPOSITE (JAN. 3 LESSON APPLICATION), by David Faust: https://christianstandard.com/2020/12/do-the-opposite-jan-3-lesson-application/
- Scripture taken from the Holy Bible, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
- The College Press Commentary, Matthew, by Larry Chouinard. College Press Publishing Company, © 1997, p. 89-102.