The Reward of Suffering (Matthew 5:11-12)

Photo by Patrick Hendry on Unsplash

Jesus has already said that you are blessed if you are persecuted on account  of your own  righteousness in His 8th beatitude. In His 9th and final beatitude He gives a greater blessing to those who are persecuted on account of Himself. “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”  

Jesus mentions being insulted, persecuted and slandered. One wonders if Jesus’ comment here was based on His remembrance of what the writer of Chronicles said regarding the fall of Jerusalem, “The Lord, the God of their fathers, sent word to them through his messengers again and again, because he had pity on his people and on his dwelling place. But they mocked God’s messengers, despised his words and scoffed at his prophets until the wrath of the Lord was aroused against his people and there was no remedy.” To be mocked (insulted) and despised (persecuted) and scoffed at (slandered) is most uncomfortable and unpleasant – but this is historically how the ungodly treated those who represented God rightly. Therefore when they treat us the same way, we are – in a way – identified with them. We already know that, because Jesus has already said that the kingdom of heaven belongs to those who are persecuted on account of righteousness. Nevertheless, now Jesus tells us that a great reward in heaven is ours if we are insulted, persecuted and slandered, for His sake. Those who are so treated not only have a place in the kingdom of heaven, but they are to be rewarded when they get there, and greatly so – for they did not only identify with the prophets (which is an honor all on its own), but with Jesus Himself. 

In saying this, Jesus is laying out a number of implications to those who are listening; Firstly, that He Himself is a greater prophet than all prior prophets. Secondly, that the suffering the prophets endured on account of their obedience to God was not in vain, but produced for them an eternal blessing – a reward in heaven. Thirdly, that if one enters into that same work – of calling people to be reconciled to God (and now much more so through Jesus), that a great and eternal reward is to be gained. So much so in fact, that one can and should rejoice and be glad in the here and now even in the midst of the insult and persecution and slander! 

It is a good thing to be persecuted for living a life that is right before God. It is quite a better thing to be persecuted for being actively involved in the work of God. Such is the work that Christ calls us to, for He purposes us to bless us far more than we deserve. So He does not assign a 9-5 job, but a life of so living for Him that those around us are brought to a point of decision – either they will say yes to Jesus and enter the kingdom of heaven with us, or they will deny the spiritual reality of His presence and so seek to work actively against it (and therefore us, as the embodiment of His presence). 

If you had to make a choice, you ought to wish rather to suffer for Christ than to enjoy many consolations, for thus you would be more like Christ and more like all the saints. Our merit and progress consist not in many pleasures and comforts but rather in enduring great afflictions and sufferings. If, indeed, there were anything better or more useful for man’s salvation than suffering, Christ would have shown it by word and example. But He clearly exhorts the disciples who follow Him and all who wish to follow Him to carry the cross.

Thomas à Kempis

APPLICATION: Intentionality 

When was the last time you were insulted, or persecuted, or slandered for Christ’s sake?

The Blessing of Persecution (Matthew 5:10)

Photo by Matteo Catanese on Unsplash

Coming to the 8th beatitude, we find Jesus exhorting us once more toward having the kingdom of heaven, “Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”  One immediately recalls the first beatitude, where He said that being poor in spirit would result in having the kingdom of heaven. Here He says that being persecuted for righteousness has the same result. The connection between humility (a right view of one’s standing before God as being poor in spirit) and righteousness (a right standing before God as He sees it) is not to be overlooked. 

Of course, to recognize who He is and to stand rightly before Him requires that one must acknowledge Him in both speech and in action. And it is that – the acknowledgment of God in action – that results in persecution.

As the late AW Pink once put it, “Who would have thought that a man could be persecuted and reviled, and have all manner of evil said of him for righteousness’ sake? And do wicked men really hate justice and love those who defraud and wrong their neighbours? No; they do not dislike righteousness as it respects themselves: it is only that species of it which respects God and religion that excites their hatred. If Christians were content with doing justly and loving mercy, and would cease walking humbly with God, they might go through the world, not only in peace, but with applause; but he that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution (2 Tim. 3:12). Such a life reproves the ungodliness of men and provokes their resentment.” 

Ironically, it is their resentment is actually the recognition of your blessing. The ungodly can see and know that you have blessing, on account of the way you live, what you say and how you act. They see and observe and immediately have an internal witness that you are blessed. The persecution then happens because they so resent that you should have the blessing of God and they not. To the ungodly this is injustice, for they believe the devil’s lie that though they refuse to acknowledge God they should have blessing all the same. Believing that lie, they believe the next – that if they persecute you, they will gain a sense of satisfaction. They will be frustrated in that also of course, but the persecution comes all the same. 

Of course the believer is already blessed before the persecution begins, but the persecution itself is also a blessing. As Paul said, “…we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.” And as Peter said, “But rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed. If you are insulted because of the name of Christ, you are blessed, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you.” The believer who is so persecuted because of righteousness is then understood as simultaneously blessed with God’s peace, presence and power, with perseverance, character and hope, with the Spirit of glory and of God. That is a lot of blessing!

Yet as many of the blessings we already have in Christ, while the persecution persists and the saint suffers, those blessings must be received in faith. For while the blessings are more real than our physical selves, but they are not yet physically realized. The suffering saint must daily – sometimes hourly, sometimes every minute – look to the absolute truth of God’s Word. And this is what God says of Himself, “those who hope in me will not be disappointed.” Great is that blessing indeed!

We must not be disappointed if the tides are not always equally high. Even at low tide the ocean is just as full.

A.B. Simpson

 APPLICATION: Intentionality 

There is solace with God, even in those days we feel let down by Him. Remember Isaiah 49:23! 

Peacemaking (Matthew 5:9)

Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash

It is a sad reality that in our time, the word “peacemaker” is slang for a big gun. Some   even speculate that having nuclear weapons ready for use at the push of a button is what has enabled mankind to avoid a 3rd world war. The irony of the acronym used for that philosophy (mutually assured destruction, or MAD) is not lost on the disciple of Christ. Weapons can never ensure peace, they can only cause temporary obedience on the part of the one threatened by them. The creation, storage and handling of a weapon can therefore never be constructed as peacemaking in anything but sarcastic terms. But what then is peacemaking? Because in Matthew 5:9, Jesus said, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God.”  

In just a few verses of Psalm 34, the Psalmist encapsulates what it means to be a child (son) of God, “Come, my children, listen to me; I will teach you the fear of the Lord. Whoever of you loves life and desires to see many good days, keep your tongue from evil and your lips from speaking lies. Turn from evil and do good; seek peace and pursue it.”

Anyone who wants to know the fear of the Lord must firstly turn from evil and instead do good. One must also hold one’s tongue from evil and one’s lips from spreading mistruth, and then seek peace and pursue peace wherever possible. That the Lord (through the Psalmist) addressed this admonition to his children might give cause to consider such action a minimum of behavior for anyone who claims to want to know God at all. Especially because a personal mission to seek peace and pursue it must start with ensuring personal peace between God and oneself. Without that, peace with others is only as practical as having allies when you are on the loosing side of a war. But if one has peace with God, it is possible to have peace and at the same time give that peace to others. Indeed, Jesus does exactly that much later on (John 14:27).

Of course, Jesus is the ultimate peacemaker. As Ephesians notes, “For he himself is our peace, who has made the two one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, by abolishing in his flesh the law with its commandments and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one new man out of the two, thus making peace, and in this one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility. He came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near.” 

A peacemaker then, is someone who spreads this message, thereby bringing peace to those who have no peace. For pursuing true peace is the motive and desire of every peacemaker, and it is the impartation of peace from someone who has peace that brings peace. That is to say, you cannot give to someone that which you do not have to give. Those who have peace with God can and must impart that peace to those who are yet without. 

Those of us with peace have significant motivation to give that peace to others. Both because the need is urgent, and because the reward is great. For surely all can see the the need is urgent; Just as two countries at war need resolution lest more die, and a couple at each other’s throats need resolution lest they tear the family apart, and a person without God’s peace is in danger of hell. Moreover, the reward is very great. For to impart God’s peace to others is to be known as a son of God: It is to earn the reputation of a good name, and to know confidence in your own relationship with God as His child.


When Our Lord speaks peace, He makes peace, His words are ever “spirit and life.” Have I ever received what Jesus speaks? “My peace I give unto you”—it is a peace which comes from looking into His face and realizing His undisturbedness.

Oswald Chambers

APPLICATION: Intentionality 

What are you bringing to those around you?

Seeking Purity (Matthew 5:8)

Photo by Chad Peltola on Unsplash

James writes, “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights.” So it is, and the gifts of God are many! Peace, righteousness and joy. Mercy, justice and abundance. Grace and love and every spiritual gift – and these are but the first fruits of knowing Him! If that be so (and it is), then what of the source of all that blessing? Surely the greatest blessing of all is not the gift, but the giver Himself! 

So it is. The blessing of God’s presence far exceeds every other blessing, for from Him comes all we need and all we were made for. It is life itself to be near Him, for He is life. 

To be relationally close to God is peace, to be emotionally close to God is joy, to be spiritually close to God is true life. It is the deepest sense of peace, the greatest joy, the highest honor – to be close to Him in every sense of the word. To be physically in His presence is an unimaginable honor. To look upon His face is the most profound blessing a created being can experience. So when Jesus says, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God,” we can know that the pure in heart are blessed indeed! 

Being pure in heart is not something that we are born with. Nor is it something you gain without thoughtful intention. Though it is entirely of God’s own volition, it is yet a condition that we’ve mindfully chosen and sought after. As the Psalmist wrote long ago, “Who may ascend the hill of the Lord? Who may stand in his holy place? He who has clean hands and a pure heart, who does not lift up his soul to an idol or swear by what is false.”  Indeed, Hebrews tells us that without holiness no one can see the Lord! For this reason it is imperative to guard one’s heart and ensure that wickedness has no place in it. Proverbs warns us, “Watch over your heart with all diligence, for from it flow the springs of life.” 

When we do watch over our hearts – when we practice the spiritual disciplines of reflection and rest in God’s sight – we find that His still small voice calls us ever deeper with Him. Not all still themselves long enough to hear that, even though He gives all who seek Him opportunity. But those who do inevitably find themselves entering a season of repentance. We should expect as much. Asking the Spirit to search our hearts will always result in Him finding something that is keeping us from going deeper with Him. How could He not? We are fallen beings living in unredeemed flesh, and the Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God. How could He not find something more when He plumbs the depths of our wispy souls? There is always something else of us to loose, and something more of Him to gain. 

If anything, this is the great take-away, the greatest nugget of wisdom from the book of Job. For Job – righteous as he was, needed to repent of his own sense of righteousness in the end: “Then Job replied to the Lord: ‘I know that you can do all things; no plan of yours can be thwarted. You asked, ‘Who is this that obscures my counsel without knowledge?’ Surely I spoke of things I did not understand, things too wonderful for me to know. You said, ‘Listen now, and I will speak; I will question you, and you shall answer me.’ My ears had heard of you but now my eyes have seen you. Therefore I despise myself and repent in dust and ashes.”

By God’s great mercy to us, we do not need to suffer loss as Job did to come to that conclusion. We can take time to seek His face and we can prayerfully ask His Holy Spirit to search us. Seeking His face may be uncomfortable for a short season, but it results in the most profound blessing. For when we do see ourselves for who we really are and so repent, He is ever gracious to receive our repentance. He removes the sin from us, and we gain purity of heart. Made more like Him, we see Him clearer than ever before! 

When we suspend our own activities and get down at the foot of the Cross and meditate there, God brings His thoughts to us by the Holy Spirit and interprets them to us. […] We can never get those thoughts for ourselves. They are the free gift of God for anyone and everyone who is learning to pay attention to Him.

Oswald Chambers


Seek Him in prayer.

Regarding Mercy (Matthew 5:7)

Photo by Darío Méndez on Unsplash

Generally speaking, no one wants to be evangelized. To be told that your  belief system is  flat out wrong is  – in a word – demeaning. To be told that a stranger at your door has a better belief system is offensive. There are always some, but very few actively want to be told how to know God. 

But everyone wants the Kingdom of God. Everyone wants what the Christ-follower already has. For world over, everyone wants peace. Civic peace in their neighborhoods, relational peace in their homes, peace of mind in their hearts. Everyone wants peace!  Likewise abundance. Who will say “No” to rain in season, and sunshine in season and a great harvest?  Who will turn from abundance? Who does not want all they need and then some? Everyone wants blessing! Everyone wants peace. 

And everyone wants justice. That they get what is rightfully theirs, and that others do not abuse them or their loved ones. This is a fundamental human desire – it goes to the core of our being. Everyone wants justice, and everyone wants blessing, and everyone wants peace. Everyone wants health and joy and the sweet sense of having done rightly (righteousness). Everyone wants what the Kingdom of God is. 

The problem is that we are all sinners, and every one of us is a wrongdoer. We do not deserve the Kingdom of God. Wrongdoing mandates justice, and that justice will be to our own great hurt. We may want justice for others, but we are in much need of mercy for ourselves! 

Now, mercy is not mercy if it is an obligation. Mercy is mercy when it is unwarranted. Everyone wants compassion, grace and love when they’ve been wronged and when they’ve wronged another. Everyone wants mercy for themselves, just as much as they want peace, blessing and justice for themselves! 

Fortunately, we can trust God to be merciful because God is full of mercy by character. Deuteronomy 4:31 says, “For the Lord your God is a merciful God.” Our cry for mercy is not unheard. God – in His mercy – acts, forgiving and restoring even though we do not deserve forgiveness, nor restoration, nor blessing nor peace, nor any other good and perfect gift. The Scriptures reveal this: God is merciful, and he hears our cries for mercy. 

But if He acts that way, we who are made in His image ought to act that way too! The Kingdom of God is not a place where one receives and receives and receives, without reciprocation. The Kingdom of God is a place where God’s people act as God acts. If God is merciful – and He is – we His people must be merciful too. If God gives peace – and He does – we His people should seek to do likewise. If God is just – and He is – we His people should be just also. If God blesses – and He does – we His people should bless also. 

Our actions toward others both demonstrate the level of our understanding of His work toward us, and unlock greater capacity to receive from Him what we have given to others. In fact, it may even be said that without showing at least mercy to others, we cannot expect to receive mercy from Him Perhaps it is with this in mind that Jesus gives us the fifth beatitude; “Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.”  Amen.

God is good, immutably good. He desires not the death of the sinner, but the death of sin.

Leighton Pullan

APPLICATION: Intentionality 

Who have you shown undeserved kindness to most recently?

Facing Injustice (Matthew 5:6)

Photo by 8-Low Ural on Unsplash

One can hardly count the number of movies that built around a revenge  theme. The plot  is usually some variant, but the main points are the same: Hero or hero’s significant other is unjustly attacked/hurt/framed or killed, hero’s situation does not provide appropriate recourse to justice, hero strikes back and despite all probability of failure, succeeds in vanquishing the antagonist at last. The viewer usually feels a mix of relief that the bad has been eliminated, and gladness or elation that justice was done. 

The problem with such movies is that they twist our sense of righteousness into a celebration of violence. We conveniently forget that God takes no pleasure in the death of the wicked (Ezk 33:11). And if God doesn’t, His children shouldn’t either. 

But we do. We forget that vengeance belongs to God (Deut 32:35). We shouldn’t take it upon ourselves. But we want to. That unrighteous want nudges against what is sometimes a very thin line between acting in righteous anger to stop or avoid greater injustice and inflicting punishment as vengeance. 

Anger is a strong emotion because it is built into us by design. God despises injustice and gets angry when He sees it, and those made in His image do too. Precisely for this reason it is easy for our enemy to prompt us to use that emotion unrighteously. Just as Satan prompts us to mistake lust for love, so he prompts us to mistake human vengeance for righteousness.  

So when Jesus says, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled,” He isn’t condoning a sense of vengeance. Rather and quite the opposite. He is condoning those who have a profound sense of God’s ways and a deep sense of longing for them. The point is the essentially the same as the last three beatitudes – that those who want the Kingdom will find it. Those who long for God’s ways will find that desire satiated – fully, completely and in overwhelming abundance. 

The question this beatitude dares to ask is whether we truly long for God’s ways. If not, we will find ourselves continuing to long for satisfaction. But if so – if we really hunger for it (the word here is peinōntes, meaning to strongly desire to eat) and if we really thirst for it (the word here is dipsaō, meaning to strongly desire to drink) – we will be filled. Completely satiated, as we are filled after the heartiest of Thanksgiving dinners. 

The good news for those who long for God’s kingdom and God’s ways is that we will find that our desire for rightness does not led us to starvation and drought, but to an overflowing peace at realizing God’s grace and care for us. We find we are given a portion of His peace in the here and now of daily life as the Holy Spirit comforts and consoles us and gives us strength to keep seeking for right-ness, even among the injustices of our present world. Yet we will find the deepest of satisfactions in the days to come – at the manifest realization of His Kingdom in all its physical reality and glory.

Friends, those days we will yet see. We will see them with our own eyes. Amen

And after my skin has been destroyed, yet in my flesh I will see God; I myself will see him with my own eyes—I, and not another. How my heart yearns within me!

Job (from Job 19:26–27)

APPLICATION: Intentionality 

What are you truly hungry for? What do you thirst after?  It has been said, ”You get what you focus on, so focus on what you want.” That isn’t always true of life in this fallen world, but it is more than true of those who seek God.

How to inherit everything (Matthew 5:5)

Photo by Dragos Gontariu on Unsplash

A King has sovereignty over his land, and that includes the right to determine who lives  on said land. In ancient days, a king would make a covenant with the people on the land to that purpose. They could stay and enjoy both the fruitfulness of the land and his protection – but they are obligated to honor him as king, and him only. To violate this covenant was treason, and treason required the death of the traitor. As most were illiterate, the covenant was usually accompanied by a graphic death sign, so that people knew that violating the covenant would have most serious consequences.

God is King of Kings, and He owns the whole earth, and all who walk upon it (Psalm 24:1). As such, He gave the right to live on the earth and all the fruitfulness of the earth to Adam (Gen 1:28). That right came with the obligation to honor Him as King, and also a death sign (Gen 2:17). Unfortunately, Adam sinned, and so lost the right to enjoy the fruitfulness of the land and his own life in the process (Gen 3:17-19).

As unrighteousness increased, God makes a radical decision; “God saw how corrupt the earth had become, for all the people on earth had corrupted their ways. So God said to Noah, “I am going to put an end to all people, for the earth is filled with violence because of them. I am surely going to destroy both them and the earth.” Genesis 6-9 record what followed; only Noah and his family survived. This is the pattern God sets out; Honor Him as King, or loose the rights to the land, and your own life in the process. We see that pattern repeated in the Israelite expansion into the promised land. God gave the land to the Hebrew nation because the previous inhabitants had not honored Him as King. They had worshipped idols and committed sins without repentance. So they lost their rights to the land, and their own lives in the process. 

That pattern is prophesied to continue. Isaiah 35 says, “Encourage the exhausted, and strengthen the feeble. Say to those with anxious heart,“Take courage, fear not. Behold, your God will come with vengeance; The recompense of God will come, but He will save you. Then the eyes of the blind will be opened and the ears of the deaf will be unstopped. Then the lame will leap like a deer, and the tongue of the mute will shout for joy. For waters will break forth in the wilderness and streams in the Arabah. The scorched land will become a pool and the thirsty ground springs of water; In the haunt of jackals, its resting place, grass becomes reeds and rushes. A highway will be there, a roadway, and it will be called the Highway of Holiness. The unclean will not travel on it, but it will be for him who walks that way, and fools will not wander on it.” 

What Isaiah prophesies, John later sees fulfilled in the Revelation of Christ (Rev 21-22) and Jesus now confidently speaks in Matthew 5, “Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.” 

What Jesus says is not a pithy saying without substance. It is not a figurative illustration. It is a promise, meant to be taken literally. It is a promise made to those who humble themselves before God , recognizing Him as King of all the earth even before they physically see Him.


The renewed earth will be the inheritance of the meek from all nations who accept Jesus as their Lord and Savior. Jesus did not spiritualize away Israel’s territorial promise. Rather, He widened the scope till it extended to the whole world.

Hans K. LaRondelle


The inheritance of the righteous is glorious, and the one who bestows that inheritance is far more glorious. Let us humble ourselves and worship Him!

Being Mournful (Matthew 5:4)

Photo by Ryan Parker on Unsplash

His first teaching a profound lesson on the value of humility, Jesus goes on to make   another seemingly contradictory promise; “Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.”  The words He chooses – makarios for blessed, pentheō for mourn, parakaleō for comforted – these mean exactly what the english translation says. Jesus is again using plain words to convey deep truth.

We mourn when we loose that which we value. Most obviously, that means people. The depth of mourning is directly tied to the depth of love one had for that which is now lost. Everyone who’s ever lost a friend or family member or even a beloved pet know this. But grief is not restricted to losing one you love. One might mourn having to leave a special place (like the home you grew up in), or a treasured role (like the job you thought you’d keep forever). Knowing such things, and knowing that Jesus’ intended meaning is spiritual in nature, one has to ask what one looses, spiritually speaking. 

We know that to step into the Kingdom of God is to give up everything, even though we had nothing, for we were dead in their trespasses and sins (Eph 2:1). Yet we give up our sin to Him, and in exchange we get Jesus, and He fills us with joy. But even the most preliminary walk with Jesus will soon reveal that you do have more to lose. The Spirit of God does His work in convicting of sin and righteousness and judgment, and we soon recognize that there are parts of our lives – some hidden and some obvious – that we need to divest ourselves of. 

We can do so freely and willingly (Job 13:23) or we can do so after a long wrestling with God (Gen 32:24, Job 42:5-6). But in both cases we must give up our very character, and that is difficult to do. It is done with mourning. Perhaps initially mourning only for having made poor choices for ourselves. But as one journeys with God, we mourn much deeper for having offended God, blinded others to His presence, peace and power, and for having stolen from His glory. 

That’s on one level. On another, God nudges us to truly recognize our brokenness. Giving up that is not so easy. Broken people actually define themselves by their brokenness. Here we find our just how hard it is to forgive those who have so offended us they have distorted our soul and caused us to loose a particular joy. Here we mourn for what can never be regained. 

It is hard to truly forgive the childhood bully who scarred you forever. The person who took what you had without asking. The abusive parent. The adulterous spouse. The rapist. The one who maimed you or your family in their drunkenness or desperation. Perhaps because of their own brokenness. Perhaps entirely by deliberate choice. Either way it is hard to forgive, and one mourns deeply. First for what was lost, then for the time spent without, then for the damage done, and perhaps after that, one might even dare to mourn for others hurt through your experience. The friends and family and well-meaning strangers who endured the roughness of your own personal brokenness that resulted from it. But God is ever faithful, and the comforter does come. The decision is made, the tears are spilt out in prayer, and the Spirit of God warms the soul. 

This is truth; there are levels of intimacy with God that cannot be reached without mourning. God is infinitely deep, and deeply emotional. To journey with Him to those depths is not a short experience or a painless one. Giving our pain and hurt over to Him is not an easy thing to do. But when you rise from those depths, you find in place of the soul-crushing open wound you had, you have a beautiful scar instead. Something that – when you occasionally notice it – recalls the sweet memory of His consolation instead of the pain and fear that used to consume you.  Best of all, you can reflect Him better, until that day He makes us all anew physically, and even the scars are gone. Amen.

Grief is like a knotted ball of yarn. It is not something that can be cut through with scissors but must rather be painstakingly unknotted.

Adam Stadtmiller

APPLICATION: Intentionality

There is no shame in grieving. But grieve loss the way you grieve sin. Prayerfully give your pain over to Jesus, asking Him to give you more of Himself in its place.

Being Poor (Matthew 5:3)

Photo by Ethan Hu on Unsplash

There is a lesson to be gained in considering the abundance of the world God  made for  us. There is not one blade of grass, but an uncountable number. There is not one tree, but an uncountable number. There is not one place to live, but an uncountable number. There is an abundance of water, an abundance of land, an abundance of desert and an abundance of icy wilderness. There is sun in season, and rain in season, and both in abundance. In God’s Kingdom, there is abundance, because God is worthy of much, and God is generous. God is also forever, and His blessing is lasting.

Conversely, poverty is not seen as a blessing, and certainly cannot be taken as a blessing from God. Everyone can know that being financially poor might be useful for a season, because you can learn contentment with little if you experience financial poverty for a season. But lasting poverty is what we call ‘grinding poverty’.  Grinding poverty is quite unhelpful. Likewise being relationally poor, or emotionally void. In fact, the first indicator that the Kingdom of God is being manifested in an earthly community is a relief of every kind of poverty – beginning with spiritual poverty. So we can know that lasting poverty is anything but a blessing!

So when Jesus begins, “Blessed are the poor in spirit” we can know that He does not mean that some form of perpetual poverty is a blessing. To be poor in spirit must mean something other than to have an absence of spiritual wealth. In fact, when Jesus says, “theirs is the kingdom of heaven,” He is imparting to the poor in spirit all the heavenly wealth of heaven! Being poor in spirit is therefore not the same as being spiritually poor. Nor does it mean that we intentionally write off our potential. Warren Wiersbe said, ““Poor in spirit” is the opposite of the world’s attitudes of self-praise and self-assertion. It is not a false humility that says, “I am not worth anything, I can’t do anything!” It is honesty with ourselves.” As another commentator succinctly notes, “to be poor in spirit refers to an awareness of spiritual bankruptcy apart from Christ.” 

That is a keen observation. God will not fill the hands that are already grasping something. So to come before Him and recognize who He is (and who we really are) is to be immediately aware of the sin we yet cling to. It is to be acutely aware of His holiness. It is to know and understand our appalling lack of flawless holiness. A lack He – in His great grace to us – does not leave us in, if we are willing to let go! It is therefore a temporary lack, and assuredly so.

The poor in spirit are those who aware of the perfect nature of God, and long to better represent Him. To such people Paul will later write, “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ.” To be poor in spirit is to be rich in Christ. It is to be rich in humility. Humility before God is therefore all the wealth we rightly aspire to in the flesh. And this is true, for humility before God is a virtual guarantee of repentance, and repentance is the door that opens the vault to the very great abundance of lasting spiritual riches.  Amen. 

There is no wisdom in a self-exaltation.

C.H. Spurgeon

APPLICATION: Intentionality

Perhaps if we spent half as much time asking God for humility as we do asking Him for blessing, we would have both, and greater peace besides.

Blessing (Matthew 5:1-2)

Photo by Cristian Escobar on Unsplash

When we left off in Matthew 4, Jesus was going throughout Galilee teaching,   preaching and healing. Large crowds were coming to Him from all over – not only crowds of Jews, but non-Jews from various backgrounds too. That is to be expected, because healing and solid teaching ministry are relevant to every  ethnic, not just to the Jews. 

As chapter five opens, we see Jesus responding to the crowds that had gathered to follow Him. “Now when he saw the crowds, he went up on a mountainside and sat down. His disciples came to him, and he began to teach them…” As He usually does, Jesus begins with teaching. 

Matthew five begins the Sermon on the Mount – effectively a summary of the things Jesus’ taught to the crowds that came to hear Him. This teaching begins with the Beatitudes. The beatitudes are a particular kind of teaching. As one commentator put it, “They name a situation or action in which they declare God’s blessing or favor is experienced. Implicitly they exhort others to manifest this way of life or experience this situation. For those who do not, the blessing functions as condemnation.” We can see that this is a summary and likely not a verbatim transcript because of the style of the text. The same commentators noted, “Some have argued convincingly that the Beatitudes fall into three stanzas of 5:3–6, 7–10, 11–12. Each stanza has 36 words.

Each beatitude begins with the word, “Blessed”.  The Greek (μακάριος) is makarios. It means to be fortunate or happy because of circumstances, to be favored, happy, or privileged. The idea is that one is both favored by divine grace, and happy for the state of being so favored.  Yet a quick glance at what Jesus called blessed can impart some confusion. Normally we would not consider any of these things a blessing. To be poor in spirit, or mourning, or meek, or hungry for righteousness (etc), is usually seen as a sad state of mind indeed. But Jesus is not a mere poet, and He does not purpose to be simply ironic. He is teaching the way of the Kingdom of God, and the way of the Kingdom is not the way of human perception! 

Each beatitude “portrays the ideal heart condition of a kingdom citizen—a condition that brings abundant spiritual blessing.”  It is that spiritual blessing that Jesus is interested in imparting – for the spiritual (which lasts) is always more valuable than the physical (which is temporary). That is a truth worth remembering. Also worth remembering is that God always starts with blessing. That may be a profound truth, but it isn’t exactly rocket science. Kindness is the key that opens the door to valued relationship. Without kindness it is all but impossible to have a relationship that the other party wants.

It could even be said that the impartation of a spiritual blessing is a prerequisite to the impartation of a spiritual truth. Blessing must precede truth, or the truth will be judged according to the condition of the other’s soul apart from from the experience of kindness, and often their soul condition is anything but receptive. By starting off with the pronouncement of spiritual blessing, Jesus softens the hearts of those He is speaking to, even if they do not enjoy the path to blessing they are on.  

Joy is the serious business of heaven.

C.S. Lewis

APPLICATION: Thankfulness

Think of a time when you felt truly blessed. What was it like? What blessing are you experiencing now?