Hi, friends. Today’s post delves into the beatitudes to explore some common questions–why are they so difficult to understand, and what do they mean? [Warning: this is just my interpretation! 😉 ]
What Are the Beatitudes?
The beatitudes are part of Jesus’s well-known “Sermon on the Mount,” detailed in the gospels of Matthew and Luke. They are a series of statements that begin with, “Blessed are…”
The beatitudes are complex and controversial because they seem counterintuitive. Almost everything that Jesus deems “blessed” is something that sounds negative–
- “Blessed are the poor.”
- “Blessed are the mourners.”
- “Blessed are those who are persecuted.”
The ones that don’t sound outright terrible may at least seem weak or “impractical” for “the real world,” such as “Blessed are the meek” and “Blessed are the peacemakers.” [Eyeroll at how even devout church-goers deem essential Jesus qualities as “unrealistic.” Didn’t Jesus come to earth and carry out His radical ministry in the midst of a very real world? Another topic for another day…]
A Modern Day Parable
Last year, my Sunday School class studied a book about the beatitudes by Rev. James Howell. I remember one salient point he makes more vividly than anything else in the book.
There exists a “modern parable” that attempts to explain how our faithlessness leads to our deprivation. Here’s a Wikipedia page about it. This story smacks of health and wealth gospel theology, but I digress.
In the parable, a man dies and goes to heaven, where he meets Peter. Peter brings the man to a warehouse with endless rows of shelves full of boxes. Peter looks for the man’s name and finds his box, sliding it off the shelf.
Man: What are all these boxes?
Peter: Each box is a “box of blessings” designated for a living person, but most do not receive everything in their box because they don’t ask for it.
I’ve prayed every day for a long time that God will guide the scientists researching FA to discover a treatment or cure, but maybe “walking” just isn’t among the goodies in my box? 😉 [On a real note, I’m hoping that’s gonna be one of those “trust God’s timing” prayers.]
Can Suffering Be a Blessing?
Rev. Howell (rightly) asserts that being a Christian is not all fun and games and boxes of goodies. He begs the question of whether suffering could be a blessing in our metaphorical boxes. If people could look down the road or “peek in their box of blessings” and see the hardships that await them throughout life, they’d feel crushed and overwhelmed. Yet, how many of us can look back on our trials and see how God brought us through, strengthened our faith, increased our endurance? Whether God actively orchestrates trials or simply allows them to happen can be debated by individuals with varying doctrinal beliefs. Regardless, I do believe one thing…
His strength is made perfect in weakness.
This truth is reflected in the beatitudes; here lies the key to understanding them.
- Blessed are the poor…because they will turn to God more quickly, whereas the rich can more easily delude themselves into thinking they have all the power and don’t need anyone.
- Blessed are the mourners…because they need God, whereas people for whom life is a perpetual breeze may not feel compelled to seek comfort and higher purpose.
- Blessed are those who are persecuted…because they suffer for their faith, whereas those who aren’t persecuted might take it for granted that they can have a personal relationship with the Father Almighty.
As for being meek, being a peacemaker, being pure of heart, and hungering and thirsting for righteousness–you might not be strong and mighty in the eyes of the world, but God sees your courage, your love, and your genuineness.
If I could sum up the beatitudes in one statement, I might write, “Blessed are those who need God and those who truly strive to represent Jesus in the world.”
Thanks for reading! Have your past trials strengthened you as a person or your faith? What do you make of the beatitudes? Does God orchestrate trials, allow them to happen, or a mix between both? [I’ve read enough scripture to see how people could interpret this differently.] Let me know in the comments.