This was part of a response I had given to someone who asked about repeated calamities. Unfortunately, I don’t have any other part of the question, other than to tell you that it led me into these thoughts on the Beatitudes.
I, likewise, understand the “repeated calamity” kind of life you mention with one thing happening after the other. Of course it’s all relative, for I consider myself to be doing pretty well considering some others I have witnessed. I have a long time friend (since 1978) who has gone through non-stop troubles since I’ve known him. The last big calamity happened as he walked by a large band saw where the blade must have gone slack and caught him by the hand - cutting off part of three fingers. The aftermath of getting treatment and sneaky employer was just as bad as the actual injury. So, just when I might be thinking my life is not so good I am reminded that I actually have it pretty well … even though some have considered me a less fortunate one. A few years ago my oldest daughter even gave me a serious talking to about what I was going to do with my life. She couldn’t believe I could be satisfied with where I was at, and I think she was a little embarrassed by my lack of “success” in the world. She has changed her opinion since then.
But who are the “fortunate” ones … really? You know, I think we have totally misread the words of Jesus when he first began what is called the “Sermon on the Mount”, and specifically, “The Beatitudes”. I think the main portion of the crowd was considered “losers” by the spiritual “elite” who came to find out what all the hubbub concerning this Jesus was all about. I think his opening words both baffled and thrilled the common people because they heard him speaking of who the truly fortunate ones were … and they never thought it could be THEMSELVES. But we have heard these words, not in their real sense, but in a religiously clean one. We think the “blessed are” somehow means that if we were to have the “qualities” in question we would then get blessed. But I don’t think Jesus spoke of any qualities, I think we have merely interpreted them this way. Here is the passage:
When Jesus saw the crowds, He went up on the mountain; and after He sat down, His disciples came to Him. He opened His mouth and began to teach them, saying, ‘Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted. Blessed are the gentle, for they shall inherit the earth. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied. Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy. Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God. Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great; for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.’ Matthew 5:1-12 NASB
Here are the so-called qualities with some commonly held MIS-interpretations:
* Poor in spirit
* Gentle (Meek)
* Hunger and thirst for righteousness
* Pure in heart
* Persecuted for the sake of righteousness
* Insulted and persecuted because of Jesus
Now, when we read these, some of them sound rather full of “good” qualities … but some of them don’t. We’ve helped some of them along to make them fit better. For example, instead of just being poor, we assume “poor in spirit” must be something we do to keep ourselves in some kind of “spiritual brokenness”. We also assume showing mercy must be a “good” thing, but was instead considered a stupid thing because it was often fatal not to stand up for oneself in an uncivilized world. What if these were not qualities at all, but instead descriptions normally reserved for “losers”? You see, Jesus did not proclaim some kind of “righteous attitudes” by which God would bless them, but was saying the same things later repeated by the likes of Paul and James.
Listen, my beloved brethren: did not God choose the POOR of this world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom which He promised to those who love Him? James 2:5
For consider your calling, brethren, that there were not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble; but God has chosen the FOOLISH things of the world to shame the wise, and God has chosen the WEAK things of the world to shame the things which are strong, and the BASE things of the world and the DESPISED God has chosen, the things that ARE NOT, so that He may nullify the things that are, so that no man may boast before God. 1 Corinthians 1:26-29
Here’s how I think the people heard what Jesus said that day:
* Fortunate are those who have nothing, because the realm of God belongs to them.
* Fortunate are the heartbroken, because they shall be comforted.
* Fortunate are the walked upon, because the earth is their inheritance.
* Fortunate are those who are in need of righteousness, because they will be satisfied.
* Fortunate are those who fail to defend themselves, because they will be defended.
* Fortunate are the naive ones, because they will see God.
* Fortunate are the “Can’t we all just get along?” people of the world, because they will be called sons of God.
* Fortunate are those who have been mistreated for doing something right, because the realm of God belongs to them.
* Fortunate also are you who catch hell from all sides because of me.