29 July 2013

Matthew 5:3-10

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.” (vv. 3-5)


Jesus was on a mountain teaching the crowds about the disciplined character attitudes which enable us to receive God's salvation. The sayings are called the beatitudes or blessings. One meaning of the verb 'to save' is to cause someone to become well again after having been sick. The blessings outline ways and thoughts which are God's ways and thoughts, and are not easily our own without training. Jesus taught that the kingdom of God was very near to people, and they could begin to live it in it right now if they adopted the right attitude of mind and heart.

What is striking about the sayings is the complete reversal from human ways and thoughts. They describe emotional attitudes and actions that most of us try to avoid, because they are too painful, costly or don't promote our self interest enough. The invitation from Jesus is to choose fullness of life and love, not death and the facade of love.

For example, "Blessed are the poor in spirit". Most of us prefer to feel rich in our inner self, powerful, self sufficient and in control with plenty of resources to hand. This could lead us to feel we don't need God or others. But training ourselves in the attitude of receiving and learning in all things and from all people brings immense riches in all sorts of unexpected quarters.

"Blessed are those who mourn": we can find it difficult to give space to ourselves and others to mourn, loved ones, and losses in life, encouraging ourselves and others to 'move on'. But there is a deep blessing and fullness in taking space to honour and value the passing of a loved one or a situation we hold dear. Better to have loved, and lost than not at all - however painful.

"Blessed are the meek [the humble]": Society values and rewards those who are pushy and successful. But if we gain the whole world, but lose our integrity, it leaves us with a hollow feeling of emptiness and we have not really gained anything at all. The humble have very little to lose, because they are not driven by status or ego and so can be immensely courageous and truth bearing.

To Ponder

  • Outline a time when you have found great blessing in being powerless. How did you cope with having no sense of power?
  • Outline a time when you found great blessing in taking time to grieve for a person or special time in your life. What gifts did you receive?
  • Outline a time where you found great blessing in learning from a big or little failure. What did you learn?

Bible notes author

The Revd Jenny Ellis

Jenny is a Methodist minister and this year has permission to study, as well as work alongside a rural chapel to help it find a new physical presence and sense of mission in its village. She is leading a number of quiet and study days.