Matthew 5:1-12 — Those Teachable Moments, Jesus and the Beatitudes!

Posted: September 21, 2015 in Gospel of Matthew, The Beatitudes

Matthew 5:1-12 — Jesus was becoming very popular. He was achieving what we would call “rock star status” today. Being a disciple of Jesus would then have made his band of guys feel pretty important. It would have given them a feeling of fame. It would be like for you and me to be a part of, say, the inner circle of like a famous preacher, politician, or musician. They could easily let this go to their head. They could have used it to their advantage. With fame, there often goes the temptation to feel as though you are privileged and can do anything. When Jesus saw the huge crowds, He took the disciples aside to teach them. He was always teaching them.

Jesus began teaching them, in what has become known as the Beatitudes. Beatitude is defined as a supreme state of spiritual well-being, a state of blessedness. The beatitudes of which Jesus teaches here are in quite a contrast to that which the world considers a state of blessedness. Jesus was teaching them that being his disciples will bring them not what they might expect in worldly terms. Jesus must have seen the wow factor in the disciples eyes as they saw the crowds that were getting bigger and bigger with Jesus’ every move. He must have seen this as a teaching opportunity to demonstrate to the them in this eight beatitudes or what they could expect being a disciple of Jesus.

Many Jewish people in Jesus’ day correlated good fortune, wealth, and ease of life with how well they were living according to God’s law. They felt that if they had these things it was because they were being blessed by God by doing all the right things. That type of feeling is not that much different from what we call today as “the prosperity gospel.” A central tenet of the prosperity gospel is that God wills the financial prosperity of every Christian. If a believer lives in poverty, he/she is living outside God’s intended will. Jews believed that your lot in life was in direct correlation to the amount of sin that you had in your life. It was no different than our prosperity gospel today. Things never change. They just get new packaging. Jesus was there to tell the disciples and He tells us in this passage that the fame, fortune, prosperity and worldly marks of success are not correlated with being a true follower of Christ.

Jesus was here to tell them that by worldly standards being a follower of Christ can mean quite the opposite. It can mean persecution, poverty, being an outcast, and sometimes even death. Jesus reminds the disciples here in this passage that earthly rewards are not what we as Christ followers should be after. We are after heavenly rewards. We are not following Christ because we want an easy life. We are following Christ and His teachings because we are seeking to live a life pleasing to God. We are living a life seeking after alignment with God’s will. Seeking after God’s will does not always correlate with earthly fortune or fame. Those who seek the prosperity gospel see God as an investment. If I invest in God, He will pay me a good return. If I am doing all the right things, God will bless me. The prosperity gospel is very me-oriented. What the gospel does teach us that wealth, power and fame may happen to us but we should consider it a gift from God. We must see it as the opportunity to give to others generously, to give to our church generously, to give and not to accumulate and hoard and leverage our own lives to the point that we become slaves to our money and power.

Jesus says in the beatitudes that seeking after God may lead us to the opposite of what the world defines as success, or as being blessed. We may find that our life actually gets worse by worldly standards when we accept Jesus as our Savior and Lord. We may fall into poverty. We may lose friends. We may be unpopular. We may suffer. We may lose everything we have. We may be called to leave a lifestyle of comfort to live a life of sacrifice and poverty. The difference is that when we put pleasing God first in our lives none of the trappings of success in worldly terms really matters to us anymore. We can be content, as Paul later says, in any situation whether we be rich or poor, by worldly standards, because we know that we are seeking God’s will and we are seeking to please Him not ourselves.

When a true Christ follower gives 10% or more of his income to the church, it is not because he is making an investment on which he expects bigger financial blessings from God in return. He gives because he is being obedient to God and he knows that any blessings that come from it are not always monetary related and may not even be rewarded in this life. We may receive financial blessing in this life from God but the true Christ follower simply sees it as an opportunity to bless others with what God has so freely given to us. A true Christ follower does not see his money as something to be hoarded and self-indulged. He sees his money as a blessing beyond what we deserve and that it becomes a tool to show love to others, to help raise people up, to help fight injustice, to help fight poverty. We use our blessings to seek that which glorifies God by alleviating pain and sorrow and oppression in the lives of others. The world may call us crazy for using our blessings in these ways. But we are seeking to please an audience of One. That’s the treasure. That’s the blessing. That’s what we seek. To please God and to hear Him say when we meet Him one day when this life’s work is done, “well done my good and faithful servant.”

Jesus could see it in their eyes. They were mesmerized by the crowds and the popularity that being a part of Jesus’ inner circle was bringing. They were thinking that this is pretty cool being part of Jesus’ entourage. This could turn out pretty good for us, they thought. It was teaching time. It was teaching time for them. It is teaching time for us. Let us move on into the beatitudes over the next several blogs and see what Jesus teaches us about being blessed.

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