Summary: It is our attitudes in action that determine the blessing we receive.
August 3, 2003
Text: Matthew 5:3-6
Subject: The Beatitudes
Theme: Living by the Book, Part One
A middle-aged woman suffered a heart attack and was taken to the hospital. While in intensive care she had a near-death experience and saw God. She asked, “Is it my time to go now?” God answered, “No, you have another 43 years. 2 months and 8 days to live.” When she had made a full recovery she made up her mind that if God was going to give her so many years, she was going to make the best of them. She stayed in the hospital and had a facelift, liposuction, tummy tuck and a nose job. She even had someone come in and change her hair color. Finally she had recovered enough to leave the hospital and on the way home she stepped out into the street and was hit by an ambulance and killed. She stepped into eternity and stood before God and said, “You said I had another 40 years ahead of me. Why didn’t you save me from that ambulance?” To which God replied, “I didn’t recognize you.”
The world is full of people who would tell us what we need to do to be happy, what looks good on us, what foods we should eat … There are also those who constantly are telling us what we can’t do.
I remember a TV show from some years back where they had a skit that showed a family that went to a state park for the day to enjoy the great outdoors. When they got there they saws a whole row of signs that said, “no hunting, no fishing, no picnicking, no trespassing, no feeding the animals, no camping, no swimming, no parking, no hiking!” Then at the bottom of the list was a sign that said, “This is your state park; enjoy it”.
Today we look at, not a list of don’ts, but a list of do’s. Jesus gave His sermon on the mount and a list commonly called the beatitudes. And that is a perfect title for the instructions given here. These are attitudes that show us how we should be or act. They are the BE - - -Attitudes. Jesus was at the height of His popularity and large crowds were coming to hear what He had to say. The disciples that came to him in verse two were not necessarily the twelve or even the larger group that professed faith in Him, but they were a group of followers who, because of His popularity, wished to be seen with Him. They may have believed Him but they had an ulterior motive in being with Him. They thought that if this were really the Messiah, then they might win political favor by being seen close to Him. So Jesus begins his sermon on the mount with this word:
Look at the word “blessed”. The Greek word "makarios" describes one who is singularly favored by God and therefore in some sense is “happy”. There is more to it than just that. This word can also apply to God. When we see “Blessed are” we can look at it in two ways. God is blessed because those spoken of in the beatitudes bring approval through their praise, worship, and obedience. Those who are blessed are approved by God, by his grace, which He offers freely. The word “happy” which is used in some translations will not do here. Though these people are happy the word refers to, not a state of inner feelings, but the point of blessedness from an ideal point of view in the judgment of others. The word blessed in each one of these beatitudes is then followed by phrase describing specifically who is blessed.
I. Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
A. The “poor in spirit” can be taken two ways. It can mean that those who are poor (economically) are blessed spiritually. In the OT being poor often had religious overtones. Several words were translated “poor”. And it referred to those who because of long economic and social distress could only have confidence in God. Psalm 40:17, “Yet I am poor and needy; may the Lord think of me? You are my help and my deliverer; O my God, do not delay.” Psalm 69”32-33, “The poor will see and be glad—you who seek God, may your hearts live. The Lord hears the needy and does not despise his captive people.”Another way to look at this phrase (I believe this is what was intended by Matthew) is to understand that these are people who recognize that they are spiritually bankrupt in the eyes of God. Their righteousness is as filthy rags. Nothing they can do will make them righteous. Those who understand that they cannot earn their way into the kingdom are not far from it. The kingdom of heaven is not given according to race (the Jews). It is not given because you have earned merit; “For it is by grace you are save, through faith, and this not of yourselves, it is the gift from God- not of works so that no one can boast.” It is not given because of wealth. Wealth was often considered a sign of blessing. Zacchaeus received Christ but not because he was wealthy, but because he placed his trust in Christ alone. (he repented and gave back four times what he had stolen from others) But the kingdom of God belongs to those who are poor in spirit; to those who recognize that they must rely on God’s grace to receive eternal life. In Luke 18:9-14, Jesus tells the story of the Pharisee and the tax collector. “Two men went to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee prayed about himself, “Thank you God that I am not like these other men…”The tax collector prayed “God have mercy on me, a sinner”Which one was poor in spirit? The kingdom is given to those who are so poor that they know they can offer nothing of themselves but must surrender themselves totally to God’s mercy and grace. In order to receive the kingdom of heaven one must deny that he can earn his way to heaven and accept the grace God gives to those who accept Christ. They are the poor in spirit. That is grace.