Like many, I’ve read the Beatitudes (the Sermon on the Mount) with skepticism. When somebody says bless you who are poor in spirit, or meek, that doesn’t sound, well, like a blessing – even if coming from such a cool dude as Jesus. It sounds more like a confirmation of your crappy situation in life. My response has always been thanks, but no thanks. However, I’ve recently discovered something – most, including institutional Christianity, read it, understand it, and thus live this message, wrong.
The Sermon On The Mount has been taught, among many ways, as a list of moral values to strive for – a checklist, if you will. Meek – check. Humble – check. Poor – check…etc. Jesus was not saying this. Let’s add some context to clarify what he was actually saying.
In his book, The Divine Conspiracy, Dallas Willard points out that Jesus was actively living and walking among crowds of people. By the way, Willard’s book is where I get most of my ideas for this article. There were all different types of people – the poor, the rich, the meek, the humble, the outcasts – think of a large park filled with people from the Occupy Wall Street movement. Jesus would be walking around healing, teaching, casting out demons – typical stuff. People flocked to him from every where because of this.
With this is mind, Jesus’ core message was/is – the Kingdom of God has come – it’s in our midst. So, what did he do? Well – he stood up (perhaps on some type of mount or hill) and he said, hey you, the meek one, good news – the kingdom of god has come to you. Then he turned and said, hey, you, the one I cast a bunch of demons out of yesterday, the kingdom of god has come to you too – rejoice. And on he went.
Why would he do this? Jesus was tearing down every barrier, letting everyone know they can access god.
Put another way, no matter where you’re at in life – no matter what your situation – no matter what other people think of you – no matter what you’ve done – god is here to be in relationship with you. God doesn’t want you poor in spirit – he wants you “alive” in spirit. He has good things for you – better than you can imagine.
That’s good news!
Thanks for reading,
~ Ted Olson