Summary: This message was prepared for and given to residents of a senior living community, and, lifts up reasons for thankfulness for the gift of old age which provides new opportunities to grow in grace.
Matthew 5:1-12 contains a list of blessings known as the Beatitudes, each beginning with “blessed are”. The English word, "blessed" is a translation from the ancient Latin and Greek texts. In the Latin Vulgate, each of these blessings begins with the word beati, which translates to “happy”, “rich”, or “blessed” corresponding to the original Greek makarioi, with the same meaning.
Something is always lost in any translation, and I suspect a little bit of the original meaning of this word has eroded because of what we have projected onto it, our understanding of "blessing”. A “blessing”, in the sense it is used in the Beatitudes, Matthew 5:1-12, is a prayer asking for God’s favor and protection. It could also be something we receive for which we are thankful. Both aspects are certainly part of what was transpiring when Jesus spoke the words of the Beatitudes blessing those who are poor in spirit, those who mourn, those who are meek, those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, those who are merciful, those who are pure of heart, the peacemakers, and those who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness.
There is however, another dynamic to these statements easily missed at first reading. It is revealed in the verse that immediately follows the Beatitudes, Matthew 5:12. Here we read, “Rejoice, and be exceedingly glad; for great is your reward in heaven…” This statement is phrased just a little bit differently in Luke’s account but essentially the same idea: “Rejoice in that day and leap for joy, because great is your reward in heaven” (Luke 6:23). And so we see that the Beatitudes are not simply a prayer asking for God’s favor and protection for those who are suffering, upon whom Jesus had great compassion, it is a prophecy.
“For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also” (Matthew 6:21).
In Luke’s account, the Beatitudes are followed by a series of “woes”: “But woe unto you that are rich, for you have received your consolation! Woe unto you that are full, for you shall hunger! Woe unto you that laugh now, for you shall mourn and weep! Woe unto you, when all men shall speak well of you, for so did their fathers to the false prophets” (Luke 6:24-26). This too is a prophecy explained in Matthew 6:21, “For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” To help us understand, simply reverse that statement so that it reads, “For where your heart is, there will your treasure be also.”
Jesus said, “blessed are” rather than “blessed be”. Jesus is not making a prayer on behalf of those whom He names in the Beatitudes. He is assuring these persons of something of which He himself is certain. The “unfortunate” of this world are in fact fortunate because they will be inclined to store up treasures in heaven, while the “fortunate” of this world are in fact unfortunate for they will be satisfied by their material fortune in this life and because of that neglect to lay up treasures in heaven (see Matthew 6:19-20).
I have said all of this to lay the groundwork for something I want to share with you today. How happy we can be, those of us who now own the title “senior citizen”, with the gift of long life that Providence has afforded us! Why do I think old age is a blessing? Because each and every day provides opportunity to learn something new and potentially wonderful, and to more fully experience the influence of God's Everlasting Kingdom in our lives. One of those opportunities is the opportunity to grow in humility, an opportunity that is more fully extended to those of us who have lived longer lives. That's why I'm really excited about old age. Long life can be a great blessing affording us additional opportunities to grow in grace and be perfected in love, and sanctified in humility.
Having been a part of your fellowship now for nearly a year, I have learned that there isn't a single person among you who is puffed up with pride. And I'm pretty sure that you know the answer for this as well as I. As we mature, we are learning more and more that we ourselves cannot be in control. We experience new limitations. Our health, our status, our physical strength, our youthful appearance, our accumulated wealth, even to some extent our mental faculties are gradually one by one being stripped from us. And the surprising thing about this is that in the process we are becoming ever more considerate and appreciative of one another. This is the essence of humility. As we begin to see with our own eyes how the perishable things that we have valued are temporary, we begin to turn our attention more and more to the imperishable. We begin to lay up our treasures in heaven.