Summary: Happy Is the Person 1) Who is sad and hungry 2) Who is meek and merciful 3) Who suffers for Jesus' sake
Last fall the British government announced its intent to create a “happiness index” to gauge just how cheerful its citizens are. The plan has since been scrapped, as one British politician explained, “You cannot capture happiness on a spreadsheet any more than you can bottle it.” Is he right? Is there no way to measure happiness? Kids, aren’t you happier when eating cake than when eating a carrot? Daves Slaback and Stuht, aren’t you happier when the Packers win than when they lose? See, it’s not difficult to figure out what makes us happy. Then again the happiness that comes from eating cake or watching your favourite team win is a happiness that doesn’t last. That’s why you’ll want to pay close attention to what Jesus has to say this morning. He’s going to teach us what leads to lasting happiness. According to Jesus, happy is the person who is sad and hungry, who is meek and merciful, and who suffers for his sake. A sadness that leads to gladness? What’s this all about? Let’s find out as we study the Beatitudes.
The Beatitudes are a series of statements that Jesus made about how to find blessedness or true happiness. It’s important to note that Jesus spoke the Beatitudes to disciples – people who already knew that the way to heaven is through faith in him. In other words the Beatitudes don’t teach us how to be saved but how the saved are to be. That’s why I like to think of the Beatitudes as “how-to-be attitudes.”
So what attitudes lead to happiness? Well, Jesus said that blessed, or happy are they who mourn (Matthew 5:4). But how can you be happy if you’re crying? And what does Jesus want us to cry about? He wants us to cry over our sins. Jesus doesn’t want us to excuse ourselves from having rolled our eyes in disgust when our parents asked again, for the third time what we’re doing Friday night. Nor does Jesus want us to laugh at the good putdown of a classmate we came up with. No, happy are those who mourn over sins like these, not just because we deserve to be punished for them but because we have treated God’s gifts – our parents and our classmates with contempt.
Jesus also said, “Blessed are the poor in spirit” (Matthew 5:3a). The root meaning of the word “poor” in Greek is “crouch” the way a beggar does. A Christian does not stand tall before God and proudly points to all the money he gives to God’s work, or to all the time he volunteers at church and in the community. Instead a Christian crouches in the shadows with his head bowed ashamed of missed opportunities to serve. And he’s embarrassed that when he does serve he often does so grudgingly not joyfully.
“O.K. Pastor, I know that I don’t measure up to God’s standard, and reminding me of this doesn’t make me happy.” Just as a quarterback doesn’t like to be reminded of the interceptions he’s thrown, we don’t enjoy being made aware of our sins. This does, however, lead to a desire for something better. That helps us make sense of what Jesus meant when he said: “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled” (Matthew 5:6). If you want lasting happiness, you’ll find it only after emptying yourself of all pride and conceit and turning to Jesus to be filled with his forgiveness and his righteousness.