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On Being Blessed

posted Jul 25, 2016, 1:19 PM by Lee Barnett

Beatitudes & Blessings

What does it mean to be blessed? It cannot mean happiness because that is circumstantial. It does not mean that the situation or condition itself is a blessing because that would have no future hope attached to it. It must mean a state of deeper joy related to hope and faith. It seems to lend itself to the idea of spiritual contentment or security. It also leans toward the idea of receiving a reward in the future. It does not mean that we will receive good things on earth or that we will have whatever we want—as many false teachers profess.

Can you be happy but not blessed? Yes, many people who do not have a relationship with God or live a life without spiritual purpose would claim to be happy because their current circumstances are pleasing. The problem is that this happiness can change instantly with the situation.

Can you be blessed but not happy? I would say “yes.” We simply need to look at the situations that Jesus highlights in Matthew 5:3-12 to see this principle.

Poor in spirit: This does not sound happy but depicts some amount of low spiritual self-esteem. Humility is good but feeling poor and lacking is not. Much of this is linked to personal comparisons. We often make unrealistic, and uninformed, comparisons of ourselves against those who seem to have it all together spiritually. There are even times (like the religious system in Jesus’ day) when self-righteous religious “leaders” promote the comparison. This beats us down and causes us to think that maybe God feels less than excited about us.

Mourning: Dealing with loss or pain is the focus here. Often when we mourn, we lose hope or perspective. Too often, we bottle up our pain because we fear that no one will comfort us or be there for us. This is a state of sadness not happiness.

Meekness: Gentleness and humility are the keys to this word—not weakness. Being meek takes work and opens you to a lot of junk when dealing with others. It also displays a person’s attitude toward God. Being humble toward God is hard sometimes too because we want what we want and we feel important. Meekness is about putting ourselves second. This does not always connect to happiness.

Hungering and thirsting for righteousness: This one requires us to take a deeper look. To hunger and thirst is to be in need, almost life or death. To hunger and thirst for righteousness could address two things. First, it could mean a need for justice or fairness. This could be a person who is mistreated and wants (possibly needs) things to be made right. Second, it could refer to a deep desire to live righteously (according to God’s ways) but still struggling with sin issues. We all struggle with sin but this person wants to overcome it. To feel either of those emotions is not to be happy. The very idea of being hungry or thirsty is not pleasant either.

Merciful: Being merciful brings to mind the idea of not killing your enemy, of not repaying wrong for wrong, of giving up vengeance. This is hard and there is a true struggle to letting go of our desires for revenge and restitution. Another perspective is to extend help to those in need. We show mercy when we help the less fortunate, hurting and alone. This is what Christians are called to do so there is a sense of joy in showing this kind of mercy. There is also the issue that showing mercy takes a lot out of you; it can be draining physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually.

Pure in heart: The idea here is that a person’s deep desires are to love and obey God. Purity involves focusing on God and avoiding sin. This is not so much a state of perfection but a desire for it. God called King David of Israel a “man after my own heart” but he was a murderer and adulterer. Again, purity is not the absence of sin or struggle but the desire to be close to God and to be like Jesus. This can be a difficult struggle as we set aside sinful desires—sometimes sin makes us “happy” so avoiding it can be a real challenge. Does challenge or struggle equate to happiness?

Peacemakers: The main idea relates to making peace with people rather than fighting. Making peace usually means giving up something that you want in order to get peace. It can also be related to mercy and meekness. Another idea that occurs to me is how the Apostle Paul speaks of being called to reconcile (make peace between) men to God. Being a part of this evangelistic ministry can lead to the next topic—persecution.

Persecuted: This is the longest section of the passage. Jesus spends some time on persecution because when we sell out to following Jesus we will be mistreated. The audience He was directly addressing knew that they could be disowned or humiliated for following Him. Some of His disciples were executed for their faith. There are still places today where you can be executed/murdered for being a follower of Jesus. This is no surprise because Jesus said that He would cause division among people. Sometimes persecution is being abandoned by friends or family. Sometimes it is being made fun of for your beliefs and stances. Whatever the type, being persecuted is definitely not a happy thing.

If being blessed is not about being happy, what is it about? To be blessed is to receive a word or act of favor or goodness. Blessings can be physical rewards, verbal encouragement or spiritual grace. Blessings can be immediate or waiting for future fulfillment. In the case of the Beatitudes, we see a combination of these. All of these blessings are centered on spiritual grace and the promise of future fulfillment. Some do carry an implication of blessing and a better life while on earth but it is not the focus of the passage.

This teaching is delivered to people who feel let down or disappointed by religion. They (we?) feel that they do not measure up and are not worthy of God’s love and acceptance. Some were probably trying their best to live out God’s commands but wondered if it even mattered. This message was, and is, addressed to the disconnected, the disappointed and the despairing. It is to encourage us when we feel like life is too hard or that our life of faith might simply be too hard. It is a message that says that God loves us all and will not leave any of those who love Him hanging out to dry spiritually.

Those who think that they will never measure up or have no worth to God are given a place in God’s kingdom. Those who hurt and morn will be comforted. The gentle and humble will have a place in God’s rule. Those who experience injustice will be validated. Those who fight for right will see that dream fulfilled. Those who show mercy will receive mercy for their needs and forgiveness for their wrongs. Those who seek to please God and have a pure heart will get to see God, the object of their love. Those who make peace with others will be received as God’s children. Those who are persecuted will find that it was all worth it—that following Jesus was worth it.

The Beatitudes are a call to have hope—a hope that God will not abandon or forget about you. They are a call to persevere in right living and following God during hard times. They are a call to consider being His to be worth it above all things. They are a both an invitation to come to God and a promise of His love and personal attention. This invitation and promise is for everyone.