Summary: As we continue our series on the Sermon on the Mount, we dive into the descriptions of a Christian’s character as defined by Christ in the Beatitudes. "Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven."
For the next three weeks we are back to our in depth study and look at the Sermon on the Mount. If you have accepted the challenge to do some scripture memory as a part of this journey together, then you would be up to Matthew 5, verse 3. And depending on your translation, you will have memorized something like this (recite Matthew 5:1-3).
A quick recap of where we have been so far. There are five key tools to our study of this great sermon together. There is the sermon itself, straight from the Word of God. Helping us understand the text better are the “Studies in the Sermon on the Mount,” by D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones. Anyone pick this one up yet? Our tradition as Wesleyan’s draws us to the “52 Standard Sermons,” by John Wesley. 13 of which deal directly with the Sermon on the Mount. There is also the book, “The Cost of Discipleship,” by Dietrich Bonhoeffer. (Highlight DVD). And of course, studying the Word of God is almost fruitless if we don’t bring it down to some good ol’ fashioned 21st century application.
We have looked at a very general breakdown of this great sermon. Chapter five gives us what? The law of God. Chapter six guides us into living in the “presence” of God. And some day, maybe around 2020 when we arrive there, we will explore how chapter seven teaches us about the coming judgment of God.
But first, we have these 8 significant items to deal with known as the Beatitudes. I like how one preacher describes them as 8 beautiful flowers in the “garden of our heart” that God wants to fully blossom. Very Valentines Day-ey. These Beatitudes describe the lifestyle that is the core reality of God’s Kingdom. And I hope you will always remember that they are not about conduct. The Beatitudes are about character. That inner essence and being which drives our conduct. So these flowers must be carefully and continually cultivated within our heart garden.
And the very first character blossom that Christ speaks of. In fact, the very first words He gives in this famous message are, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”
Now, right off the bat there is an issue of interpretation that we have to tackle here today. And it comes from a parallel passage that we find in the book of Luke. Luke chapter 6, verse 20. Parallel passages are those places within the Bible, where you get a recording of the same event. We especially find these in the gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke. And it appears that in Luke chapter 6, we are being given some pieces of the Sermon on the Mount.
But Luke records it a bit different, and this can raise a challenging issue for us today. Luke writes in chapter 6, verse 20 (read). “Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God.”
Taken alone, what would that lead us to think that Jesus means by the poor? Any thoughts?
Sure. Many would regard this as some type of commendation for those that are poor. Many theologians interpret this from what they would define as a “social gospel” promise for those who are without in our society today. Kind of the great, eternal equalizer for the poor of the world. The homeless, the unemployed, the Haitians, the orphans in India. And pulled apart, taken by itself from these verses in Luke, one might make such an argument. But there are a couple of problems with that conclusion being made simply based on Luke’s wording. First. . .
1. The Bible does not teach that poverty guarantees spirituality.
Nowhere in the Bible will you find that simply because you live in poverty, you are good to go with the kingdom of Heaven. Entrance into the Kingdom of God does not change, and does not have multiple toll booths. As our Upward basketball players learned last week, Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth and the life. No man comes to the Father but by me.” No man. No other way. Jesus only. And definitely not by simply being poor. Secondly. . .we know that. . .
2. Many poor people rely upon riches just like rich people do.
The world is full of poor people walking around saying, “If only I had this. If only I had that.” They are consumed by jealousy, and are living anything but a blessed life.
Visit a country like Haiti where people look at you as rich, and figure since you have considerable more money than them, then it must all be good. What could possibly be wrong with his life? He’s got money. While reality shows that the rich struggle with happiness and joy just as much as the poor do. Just talk to a few lottery winners.