Unraveling the Enigma of the Beatitudes (& Discussing the Parable on “Boxes of Blessings”)

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! ๐Ÿ˜‰ ]

What Are the Beatitudes?

Sermon on the Mount by Carl Bloch, 1877

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? ๐Ÿ˜‰ [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.

27 comments

  1. Because of God’s mercy we do not receive what we actually deserve. Because of God’s grace we receive what we do not deserve.

    Jesus told us that in this life we will have trouble but he is always with us.

    I have viewed the struggles in my life as opportunities to share Christ with others. Just last night I was talking with a young man who struggles with depression. Because chronic illness has caused me to have it, I was able to relate with him. My hope is to share Christ as we interact.

    I leave the answer to your question in the hands of God. ๐Ÿ™‚

    Liked by 2 people

    1. As you phrased it, I also have viewed the struggles in my life as opportunities to share Christ with others–showing them that joy and peace and happiness are possible in the midst of trials. Keep being a light, Matt! ๐Ÿ™‚

      Liked by 1 person

  2. โ€œYet, how many of us can look back on our trials and see how God brought us through, strengthened our faith, increased our endurance?โ€ [Holds hand up] I can honestly say that the testing of our faith through the wilderness did strengthened us and grew patient endurance. I honestly believe we would not have learned those characteristics had we not walked through the homelessness He led us in. The suffering was hard but certainly nothing compared to what we have gained in Jesus.

    Thank you for this post

    Blessings,
    Homer Les
    http://www.uncompromisingfaith.ca

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Love your summation: Blessed are those who NEED God. Amen, Amen!! So well put, Lily!

    You have brought awareness to me about FA and just knowing how many people suffer from that as well as from other chronic illnesses makes the false theology regarding health/wealth gospel all the more sad.

    Suffering absolutely brings about blessings for me — mainly a thirst and hunger for Him as well as a yearning and longing for Heaven. If I had to choose one or the other, though, I am inclined to think He allows suffering, rather than orchestrates it, and that we have only seen the ramifications of sin and evil that won the right to rule the world after the fall of man — I do think God’s ultimate wrath is going to come down though too, and perhaps has already in some historical instances (when entire evil governments have toppled, wicked is exposed, etc.)

    But I do think He also intervenes often, protects us, and prepares us ahead of time for what may be coming (He always sent prophets before destruction came) and clearly He abounds in grace– as His power is indeed, made perfect in our weakness.

    To me the Beautitudes are also giving me permission to rest in that weakness and to be ok with pain and suffering. Because it is not only ok, but good, to remain small, weak, and seeming ineffectual. It seems to be ‘the favored’ way in which God operates! That way no one can ever say it was by ‘our own power’!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you for another insightful comment, Salt. I enjoyed reading your two cents on suffering, the ramifications of sin, God’s ultimate wrath, how He does intervene at times, etc. I find myself more or less agreeing to everything you said. I love what you said in the last paragraph–it’s okay, even good, to rest in that weakness. Humility is rewarded time and time again in scripture. Again, thanks for always contributing thoughtful commentary to the conversation; readers like you are truly a blessing!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I agree. How many have heard the Word thru your affliction and been solidified in our God. How many have turned to the truth you speak because you have fought so hard to tell. We will never know until we see His Face but a live of His peace is worth it all.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Lily, I think you summed it up perfectly when you said that those who need God are blessed. And actually strengthened, which sounds counter-intuitive to us, but what we’re doing is trading our strength for His. And His strength is always infinitely better than ours!

    The Sermon on the Mount (Matt.5-7) is probably the most profound teaching ever given in human history. It’s what being fully human looks like. Every word penetrates the deepest part of the human soul, our motives, our fears, loves, hates, and gives us a way to let all that go and live in the power of Christ’s life instead. It’s the very heart of what it means to follow Christ.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Your comment is so eloquently phrased, Mel. Yes, we are “trading” our strength for His. I love how you said that the Sermon on the Mount penetrates to the deepest parts of us. Your comment urges me to go read it again today. Amen!

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Great post! I agree with you, Lily! It is a blessing to be so low that the only way to look is up, to see and take the hand of God which is stretched out to help us. The fact that we don’t see it as a blessing just accentuates our fleshly attitude of entitlement and our desires for the things of THIS world instead of the things of God. To know God intimately is, indeed, the greatest blessing of all!
    Not to digress from this important topic, but Iโ€™ve nominated you for the Sunshine Blogger Award! You can check out the details at:
    https://plantedbylivingwater.wordpress.com/2019/08/17/sunshine-blogger-award-2/
    Feel free to do as much or as little as youโ€™d like. I enjoy your blog and hope this will bring new bloggers to read and enjoy it, too! ๐Ÿ™‚

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I love how you phrased this–“It is a blessing to be so low that the only way to look is up.” It’s hard to view that position as a blessing, but it reminds me of the number of times we are told in scripture that “suffering with Christ” is honorable. Thank you for dropping by and for your shout-out/nomination, Ruth! โ™ฅ

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Dear Lily, thank you for sharing your thoughts on the Sermon on the Mount ~ just after I posted eight videos on YouTube on the Beatitudes by a young Northern Ireland pastor. They are excellent if you are ever interested in these. Blessings to you always through the promises of being blessed in Christ with every spiritual blessing in heavenly places. Ephesians. 1:3

    Liked by 1 person

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