A bunch of years ago I was a fan of a family sit-com. Anyone remember, “8 simple rules”?
– 2 parents / 3 kids
– the kids were different & unique (one daughter was vain, the other was smart, the son was rambunctious)
– This was also John Ritter’s final show (sad)
The point of the title was that you can’t sum up parenting in 8 simple rules…too complex…
– we try though…it makes us feel like we got it together…
– 5 ways to a better this…6 ways to a successful that…7 ways to have an organized life or closet or house…
Jesus was good at narrowing things down to a few take home bullet points – Not because he wanted to make things simple, but because he wanted to make them stick. Most times he taught through stories, so when he did provide or offer a list, there had to be a good reason. Both his stories and his lists accomplished the same thing: mess with your head and heart and lead you to life change or a change in perspective.
For the next few weeks we will be diving into 8 simple lines…not so simple lines…from Jesus.
Matthew 5-7 is a collection of Jesus’ teaching that he shared on a hillside. In this section of Matthew we hear Jesus teaching on Relationships, Love, Prayer, Anger, Giving, Worry, Trust, Loyalty, The Lord’s Prayer, etc.
The Beatitudes are found at the beginning of this section. Jesus doesn’t wait long to get to the point. By doing this, he sets up everything that follows.
Matthew tells us that he sat down to teach. It would be very common for Rabbi’s to sit while teaching. It motioned that something important was about to be said. Very different than today where we feel we have to rise above the crowd to get people’s attention.
His posture actually speaks to what Jesus was about to get at.
The Beatitudes reflect a reverse way of moving forward as well as or better than anything else Jesus said.
“If you wanna be where others can’t get to, you have to do things differently than others are doing.”
Seriously Jesus…Happy are…Blessed are…the poor? The grieving? The hungry? The meek?
One glance and you can see how you either tuned in or quickly tuned out. It could and would make more sense in some ways to say, blessed are the rich, the settled, the filled, the powerful, the winners, the strong, the successful. Right?
But this crowd is unique. They’re made up of close disciples, followers, and the very intrigued.
– The Disciples have experienced risking and losing a lot to follow Jesus
– Other followers are marginalized and hoping to turn things around with this Jesus guy.
– And you have a whole bunch that are on the fence seeing if he’s for real.
Jesus speaks to them. To this crowd. To these people. And this message to them (and to us) is good news. It’s the gospel. With the words that come from Jesus’ mouth, he announces a reversal to the social norm – a counter cultural message. That message, to this crowd, is good news. Here it is…the first simple line…
“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”
What is Jesus talking about? He is honouring and cheering on those who are spiritually bankrupt.
“To be poor in spirit is not to lack courage, but to acknowledge spiritual bankruptcy”
We often read this and quickly veer to the poor among us – the physically poor.
Jesus isn’t omitting them. You can’t read Jesus’ stories and the rest of the Bible and not see that God’s heart beats for the poor, the marginalized, the hurting. The Good News is for them. And it’s our responsibility to share this good news in real and tangible ways. I hope that one of the take homes from our last series (Present over Perfect) was the Spirit nudging you to be more present with the poor – to be present to needs around you. I know I was praying for that to happen…in me and in you. (Read Matthew 25…if you’ve done it to the least of these, you’ve done it to me)
But as much as we are called to be present with the poor and the marginalized, this first phrase is about more than that.
Blessed are the poor in spirit means two things:
– God blesses those who are poor in spirit
– We must all acknowledge our spiritual poverty
There are various forms of poverty, aren’t there? Emotional. Intellectual. Physical. Relational. Financial.
When you really think about it…there are lots of area’s in our life where we are lacking.
When Jesus says that we must be poor in spirit, he’s actually contrasting his economy to our world’s economy.
Dallas Willard says…“Under the rule of God, the rich and the poor have no necessary advantage over each other with regard to well being in this life or the next.”
That means that, “True equality occurs with those who are poor in spirit. Because, Rich or Poor, we all need God.”
Listen to what Jesus says, through John, to a church in Revelation (3:17-18)…You say, ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.’ But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked. I counsel you to buy from me gold refined in the fire, so you can become rich; and white clothes to wear, so you can cover your shameful nakedness; and salve to put on your eyes, so you can see.
The crowd Jesus is speaking to had come to grips with a very important reality – they need help. We must come to that same reality. I am poor in spirit. Why? If I don’t, I’m just fooling myself.
Two things Jesus is declaring to those who are poor in spirit…spiritually bankrupt…
– They are Blessed
– They are part of the Kingdom of Heaven
Blessed (Makarious in greek) = whole, well, happy
Kingdom of Heaven = God’s ways, in our space, both now and in the future
This is GOOD NEWS!
And this here, folks, is Jesus announcing that God doesn’t play favourites. The Kingdom of heaven cannot be bought or earned. Rich or Poor, both must arrive to it the same way…humbly.
“Jesus was the first world leader to inaugurate a kingdom with a heroic role for losers. He spoke to an audience raised on stories of wealthy patriarchs, strong kings, and victorious heroes. Much to their surprise, he honoured instead people who have little value in the visible world: the poor and meek, the persecuted and those who mourn, social rejects, the hungry and thirsty. His stories consistently featured ‘the wrong people’ as heroes: the prodigal, not the responsible son; the good Samaritan, not the good Jew; Lazarus, not the rich man; the tax collector, not the Pharisee. The glory of the church is when she lays aside her respectability and her dignity, and gathers together the outcasts.”” (Philip Yancey)
Stu Garrard puts it this way, “God is on the side of everybody for whom there’s no reason why God should be on their side.”
So…Every week we’ll look at one simple line from Jesus’ teaching in Matthew 5. This week, simply take home one word with you: poverty.
“While our symptoms and our causes are as unique as the freckles on our skin, we’re all united by one simple word: poverty. We’re all poor in some way shape or form. None of us can make it on our own.”
If we can get to the place where we acknowledge our inadequacy and our brokenness, that is where we will meet God.
Eugene Peterson paraphrases this beatitude so well…“You’re blessed when you’re at the end of your rope. With less of you there is more of God and his rule.”