Summary: Christianity Makes No Sense to our Human Way of Thinking. 1. It’s good to be poor and sad? 2. It’s good to be submissive and oppressed?
Have you ever been talking to a fellow Christian, and, as they were telling you about something that had happened to them, you made the remark, “Wow, you’ve really been blessed”? What situation could occur that you would call another person “blessed”? Maybe if the Lord allowed a friend of yours to advance to high levels in his job, you would say, “the Lord has really blessed you; I’m happy for you.” If a person has a lot of friends, you might say, “the Lord has really blessed you by giving you such a winning personality.” If someone just came out of a health crisis, it would be easy to say, “the Lord has blessed you by taking away your suffering.” We usually think of “blessed” as equaling success. The way we often use the word blessed gives the impression that we think it means that God has shown his favor to us in some tangible, measurable way.
Surely anything that God gives us, like a job, like our traits, like our health, are blessings from a loving Lord, and he ought to be thanked for them. But in our text for this morning, Jesus gives us other things to thank God for…things which on the surface we might say “no thank you God” for. What Jesus does in these 12 verses is he takes the world’s definition of “blessed” and turns it upside down. To an unbeliever, and even to us Christians, we take a look at this list and say, “are these things really blessings?” There are a lot of strange religions out there, but by far, Christianity is the oddest. In fact, Christianity seems to make no sense to our human way of thinking. 1. It’s good to be poor and sad? 2. It’s good to be submissive and oppressed?
Jesus opens this nonsensical address, “blessed are the poor in spirit.” This has nothing to do with how much money we have. If it did, the poor among us would imagine that they were on God’s good side just because they didn’t have money. The wealthy would despair that their property might kick them out of heaven, and the middle class wouldn’t have any idea of if they were blessed or not. Jesus is talking about another poverty: spiritual poverty.
What an odd thing for him to say! I mean, I would think that Jesus would want us all to be spiritually rich, spiritually wealthy. Doesn’t that make sense? Christianity doesn’t make much sense. So let me tell you a story about a person in the Bible who thought of himself as spiritually rich. He went to church one day, and he told God just how rich in spirituality he was. He proudly told the Lord that he was so much wealthier in deeds than most. He talked about how big his offerings were, and basically said that God was pretty lucky to have him on his team. The irony is that God doesn’t need or want spiritually rich people like this on his team.
The next statement of Christ is also difficult to swallow: “blessed are those who mourn.” A man seeking a divorce once went to his pastor, and told him about how he and his wife just aren’t happy anymore. So they were looking to split up, for the husband reasoned, “well, God wouldn’t want me to be married for the rest of my life to this person who makes me unhappy, would he?” But Jesus here doesn’t say, “blessed are the happy,” rather, “blessed are those who mourn.” So does God want me to be sad? Yes! Let me tell you about another man who went to church the same day as that proud bragger. This second man knew he was spiritually poor. As he considered his past sins, sins that were still fresh in his mind after committing them not long before, he mourned over them. He knew he didn’t even belong in God’s house, and as he cried over his faults, he simply asked God for mercy.
Which one of those men received blessing? Was it the spiritually rich, happy and proud man, or the spiritually deficient, sad and shamed man? The Bible states that only the sad and crushed man went home justified before God.
It is good for you and I to be spiritually poor. It is not good to look at that confirmation certificate which was gained in 8th grade as if it gains some extra standing before God. It is not good to be proud over the pure doctrine taught in our church body and suppose that we are superior to Christians in other churches. It is downright hazardous to think that since your name appears on the roster of a Wisconsin Synod church, God must love you more than a Catholic, a Methodist, or one of those off-the-wall liberal Lutherans. Do you see how that proud Pharisee very subtly creeps into your mind and whispers to you how spiritually rich you must be compared to others who seem to have little to offer God?