Jesus made this famous set of odd statements about those who are blessed. He started out with these declarations:
“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth” (Matthew 5:3-5).
His words didn’t make sense 2,000 years ago. They don’t make sense now.
In our context, we might say blessed are those who make lots of money, for everything they want to purchase can be theirs. Blessed are the celebrities (as long as they keep producing hits and looking good), for they will be extolled with fame and attention. Blessed are the ones with political power, for they will coerce the people into doing their will.
In Jesus’ day, they saw blessing in more religious terms. They thought rich people were blessed by God. They thought healthy people were blessed by God. And they thought religious people were blessed by God.
But Jesus gives us a very different understanding of what it means to be blessed. Jesus wants us to know that God’s favor does not depend upon anything we do. It doesn’t come because we get the best grades or go out with the right person or get into the right college or come from a famous family.
Jesus offers a vision of a different type of kingdom. This kingdom has power, but it is the power of love rather than coercion, the power of grace rather than control, the power of blessing rather than payment. It is a kingdom that welcomes rather than excludes, that invites the vulnerable to come to the table first, that promises an inheritance to the destitute and offers comfort to the marginalized.
When Jesus offers these words of blessing, he is making a statement about spiritual reality. He isn’t saying that the poor, the meek, and the mournful are better people. He isn’t saying that they are exemplary. He is simply stating a fact that might be missed if all we pay attention to is the material world. He is saying that God’s love flows towards the poor, the meek, and the mournful. They are not forgotten or overlooked or condemned. All of us can find ourselves under the blessing of God.
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