2a. "How to Be Really Well Off"

Matthew 5:1–8

We see Matthew’s understanding of the central points in Jesus’ teaching. As Moses went up the mountain to bring a new law to the people, so Jesus, on a mountain, describes the way God wants us to live now.
Jesus commends the meek, the merciful, those with undefiled hearts, and those who work for peace; familiar virtues. Others in the list are more surprising. Jesus blesses the poor, the hungry, and the weeping, as well as the virtuous, recognizing the injustice of their situation while assuring them of God’s care.

The Beatitudes

Matthew 5:1–16 [Click to open and read this passage. Re-click to close it.]

Now when he saw the crowds, he went up on a mountainside and sat down. His disciples came to him, 2and he began to teach them saying:
3"Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
4Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.
5Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.
6Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.
7Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.
8Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.
9Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God.
10Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

11"Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. 12Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

Salt and Light
13"You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled by men.
14"You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. 15Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. 16In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.

The word "blessed," which is used in each of the beatitudes, is a very special
word. In the Greek, it's "makarios," meaning "fortunate," "happy," "well-off," or "in
a privileged situation." It describes a well-being that's serene and untouchable; a
well-being that transcends the chances and changes of life. Christian blessedness,
as Jesus sees it, speaks to a kind of joy and happiness that he has for his people,
which nothing in life, nor in death, can take away. Makarios's roots are solely in the faithfulness and the presence of God. In some ways the Lord’s declaration of “blessed” is a pledge of divine reward for the inner spiritual character of the righteous; in other ways it's his description of the spiritual attitude and state of people who are right with God.

Misconception 1  Jesus is not declaring in his Beatitudes a feeling of happiness that his people can have. Instead, he's expressing what he thinks of his people. It is on that account that they are "blessed" or "fortunate."

Misconception 2  These passages are not a list of how God wants us to act. There are not "Be attitudes"! For example, when Jesus proclaimed blessed are the poor, those who mourn, those who are persecuted, and those who hunger, he was not saying we should be poor in spirit or wealth, mourning, persecuted, or hungry.

The message of Jesus here is this: His blessings come to people regardless of whatever condition they're in. He came to say, in effect, "No one is too far gone to receive God's blessings."

In all of this, Jesus says "Rejoice and be glad, for great is the reward of those who are like this!"

Hearty Questions to Answer then Apply

  1. How would you define the word "blessed"?
  2. Who do you normally consider to be "blessed" or "fortunate"?
  3. Regarding the poor, meek, hungry, and thirsty conditions (vv. 3–6) that people
    have, are these material or spiritual deficiencies?
  4. Do you agree that the promise of seeing God (v. 8) would be for those who are
    pure in heart?

"In the Beatitudes, we find a simplicity of word and profundity of thought that has attracted each fresh generation of Christians and many others besides. The more we
explore their implications, the more seems to remain unexplored. Their wealth is
inexhaustible. Truly, 'we are near heaven here.'
Read Matthew 5:1–12."
— John Stott

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