Blessed are the Have-Nots
When my daughter Zoe, now a sweet 16, was 4, I was obsessed with the Beatitudes. I knew they were true because Jesus said they were true and every other saying of Jesus that I had personally experimented with was true.
But how were they true?
Poor Zoe. I kept on explaining them to her all that year. That was the year she became a Christian. She now takes it for granted that “the meek inherit the earth” which was the most frequent saying in our household in the years that Zoe had to tussle with a strong-willed pre-verbal younger sister.
for yours is the kingdom of God.
21 Blessed are you who hunger now,
for you will be satisfied.
Blessed are you who weep now,
for you will laugh.
22 Blessed are you when people hate you,
when they exclude you and insult you
and reject your name as evil,
because of the Son of Man.
for you have already received your comfort.
25 Woe to you who are well fed now,
for you will go hungry.
Woe to you who laugh now,
for you will mourn and weep.
26 Woe to you when everyone speaks well of you,
for that is how their ancestors treated the false prophets.
I then summarized the Beatitudes for myself, and anyone who would listen to me thus: God is the greatest good. Blessed are those who know him, for they can be joyful when there is no visible reason for joy, peaceful when there appears to be every reason not to be at peace, and full where others might see emptiness.
The greatest puzzle of the Beatitudes are that all human endeavour, Christian and non-Christian tends towards being rich, well fed, laughter (happiness), and the esteem and respect of our community. And yet, Jesus says, “Woe to you,” to those who have these things.
And human beings endeavour not to be poor, to hunger, to weep, to be excluded, insulted and hated and rejected.
But Jesus says that those who are poor, and live in constant need and expectation of God’s provision are blessed. Those who hunger and turn to God and have him on their mind are blessed. Those who are sad now, and turn to God to fill their sadness, are blessed. Those who are hated, excluded, insulted and rejected because they are following Christ are blessed. They are treated as the prophets were treated, and will receive a great reward in heaven.
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On the other hand, those who are rich, well-fed, and at the top of the world now are living in a here-and-now world. They may well be false prophets who are not shouldering the cross, and may well experience woe in eternity.
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The Beatitudes grow with us. They mean different things to us at different times, according to the circumstances of our life.
What they say to me today is:
Blessed am I when I hunger
for what I do not yet have.
For my hunger will remind me to turn to God,
and he will satisfy me.
Blessed am I when I weep
–for my tears will remind me to turn to God,
And he will make me smile.
Blessed am I when people hate me
exclude me and insult me
and reject my name as evil
because I have been following Christ.
I just rejoice and leap for joy
I will have a great reward in eternity
Because I am treated as the false prophets were.
But when I am rich and well-fed and laugh and everyone speaks well of me–is there something wrong with this picture? Am I following one whose ministry was fraught with scandal and danger and peril.
And so this is my personal summary of the meaning of the Beatitudes for me: Anita, cheer up when you experience emptiness or sadness or life does not match dreams. When things don’t go as you want. In that emptiness there is room for God, and you will ask him to fill you, and he will. And Anita, remember God when all goes well, he alone can fill all the nooks and crannies in your soul which friends, or money or success or dreams come true cannot.
Maranatha. Come Lord Jesus!