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Summary: Life Context Response

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The Beatitudes

Life Context Response to

The Gospel of Matthew 5:3-12

By Kent Wise

Introduction

This pericope of scripture has captured my attention from my first reading at an early age. I come from a very traditional and conservative background where prosperity, wealth, and power were emphasized from my earliest memories. The majority of my life, thirty years, was spent working for the attainment of these. Each of these characteristics is a measure of success and well being within the white European community. An individual who does not achieve prosperity, wealth, and power is considered to be lazy, of little account, and weak.

Therefore, the words of Jesus found in the Gospel of Matthew created a dilemma for me. Many questions surrounded the blessings of God and how they impacted me, a southern white, autocratic individual. For example, how can I be blessed when I am poor? How can I be blessed when I am meek? Several other questions exist and will be expounded upon in the body of this response. Each statement that Jesus makes struck at the very core of my belief and value system. Each statement was counter to the image of God as viewed by Christians of European ancestry. Afterall, our God, our Jesus, was not poor, weak, or timid. He was and is mighty, fearless and strong.

Problematic Views Raising Problematic Questions

Most scholars agree that the Beatitudes are divided into two sections of four descriptive sentences. Each of these sentences begins with the words, “Blessed are…” Each of us cherishes the thought of being blessed from God. As Christians, our lives are to be lived to be a blessing to others so that we may receive God’s blessing. However, in the Matthean text we encounter a very problematic teaching which is very counter culture to what we have been taught. Let us look at the eight statements and how they impact my personal views of culture and the world.

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven”- Today, an individual’s success is often determined by the financial resources they have attained. The world holds someone with wealth as a person of high regard. Jesus’ statement counters this view by announcing blessings upon those who society would not deem successful. This “blessings” statement is very liberating for many today as God’s blessing is attainable for the poor, the hurting, and the unsuccessful. God’s blessing surpasses any attainable level of worldly wealth by attributing a spiritual characteristic to wealth with the prize of heaven.

“Blessed are those who mourn for they shall be comforted” – Mourning or longing for something is an action that will lead to the expectation of something great. Jesus uses this language, I believe, to illustrate that a relationship with the Heavenly Father is something to be longed. It is through this relationship that comfort is achieved and the depth of God’s love is realized.

“Blessed are the meek for they will inherit the earth.” – Again, the language used by Jesus is counter culture. Power is sought after by many today. Power is attained often times through acts that negatively affect others. Here, Jesus is placing emphasis not on being weak, but rather by being strong. However, the strength is attained by not being self-centered but rather by being others-centered. Strength comes from serving others. Strength comes from letting God be the guide.


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