Who doesn’t want to be blessed? Who doesn’t want to have a life full of blessing? In Jesus’ public Sermon recorded in Luke 6, Jesus tells us what kind of person is truly blessed.
“Blessed are you poor, For yours is the kingdom of God.21 Blessed are you who hunger now, For you shall be filled. Blessed are you who weep now, For you shall laugh.22 Blessed are you when men hate you, And when they exclude you, And revile you, and cast out your name as evil, For the Son of Man’s sake.23 Rejoice in that day and leap for joy! For indeed your reward is great in heaven, For in like manner their fathers did to the prophets. Luke 6:20-23
This passage is commonly referred to as the Beatitudes and a parallel passage can be found in Matthew 5:2-11. It is important to keep in mind that Jesus is not speaking subjectively here. He is not using the word “blessing” in a subjective sense that may mean something different to each person listening.
Across the globe, one person might think a life of blessing is having a full tank of gas in your private jet while another person might consider it a blessing to have a glass of lukewarm water to drink and a cup of cold rice to eat on a regular basis. In America, it could be living in a certain zip code, having your kids in a certain school district, driving a certain kind of car or getting a good return on your investments. In other words, we tend to think of blessing in a subjective sense depending on where we live, what we are used to and in comparison to those who live around us. But Jesus is not speaking subjectively. Jesus is “The Way, the Truth and the Life” and when He speaks, He speaks objectively and definitively. He speaks Truth.
One of the clearest pictures of a blessed man can be found in Psalm 1. This blessed man, in an objective sense, is one who delights in God’s Word, reads it day and night and is like a tree that is eternally nourished whose leaf never withers. It will stand forever and be prosperous. This is in direct contrast to the wicked who are like chaff, who will collapse under God’s judgment and who will ultimately perish.
In addition, in light of Jesus’ primary mission to “seek and save that which was lost” (Luke 19:10), one who is truly blessed from God’s perspective is properly understood in light of regeneration in which a person is in a right relationship with God and will enjoy both the present as well as the eternal favor of God. He is not simply a person who is enjoying some fortunate circumstances in life or is having a particularly happy day. It is infinitely more grand than that.
So who exactly are those who are blessed in this life? According to the Beatitudes recorded in Luke, we see Jesus refer to people who are poor, hungry and weeping as those who are blessed. Again, in a relative sense, a “poor” American is much different than a “poor” Haitian, a “hungry” American is much different than a “hungry” Haitian and a “weeping” mother who lost a young child is different than a “weeping” sports fan whose undefeated team was just beaten by an unranked opponent. But Jesus is not speaking subjectively; He is communicating objective truths that are characteristic of those who are indeed truly blessed.
So, if you want to be truly blessed, you must be objectively poor, hungry and weeping. So what does that look like? The parallel account in Matthew 5:2-12 helps us understand that these terms are meant to be understood in a spiritual sense. Blessed are those who are poor in spirit, who see themselves as having no spiritual resources and who look outside of themselves for spiritual sustenance. The hungry are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness. This is someone who understands that there is “none righteous, no not one” (Rom 3:10), and who understands that “man does not live by bread alone but by every Word that comes from God” (Matthew 4:4). And those who weep are not those who cry due to worldly sorrow and pain, but those who have godly sorrow and who lament and mourn and weep (James 4:9-10) over the sin that is in their lives. These people, Scripture declares, are those who have the kingdom of God; a statement which is analogous to someone who has been born again as mentioned in John 3:3.
Now when Christians read this passage, we rejoice. We are encouraged and filled with joy unspeakable for the immeasurable riches that God has lavished upon us in and through His Son Jesus Christ. We rejoice that we are poor in spirit, hungry for righteousness and mourning over our sin. But for someone separated from God, this is a far cry from the message they want to hear and the way they want to see themselves, especially in America. People don’t want to be poor, they want to be rich, wealthy and successful. People don’t want to be hungry, they want to be well fed with a double portion. And people don’t want to weep and mourn, they want to be happy and constantly entertained.
So how can we expect people to receive this message which seems to be a 180-degree about-face from the life they want to live? How do we help them see the joy and blessing that comes from being a person who is truly poor, hungry and weeping?
If you read a bit further in Matthew 5 we see that God Himself, the Great Evangelist, models the use of that which God has ordained as a means to bring about this change of heart in humanity, namely the Law of God. Jesus declares in Matthew 5 that not one jot or tittle of the Law will pass away and that those who do and teach the Law will be called great in the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 5:17-20 paraphrase). He also says that if your righteousness does not exceed that of the Pharisees (the most outwardly “righteous” men in society at the time) you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven.
Jesus then spends the rest of Matthew 5:21-48 expounding, magnifying and clarifying the spiritual truth of God’s Law and showing how no man has ever kept the Law in thought, word or deed. He speaks of lust as adultery and anger as murder. He warns of coming judgment, He speaks of hell and He says that when people persecute you (which this message is bound to make them do), to love them and pray for them. He ends by telling people they must be perfect as their Heavenly father is perfect. Jesus is effectively using the Law according to its God given function. The Law of God “brings the knowledge of sin” (Rom 3:21), shows us our exceeding sinfulness (Rom 7:13) and leads us to Christ (Gal 3:24) where our only hope for righteousness can be found.
This is a biblical principle I have seen work first hand in the hearts and minds of people I have been privileged to talk with on the streets and in my family. Just a week or so ago I was speaking with a lady who told me immediately that she was going to heaven because of her good deeds, in particular caring for her son with special needs. Unfortunately, her son with special needs told me he himself would not be going to heaven because he had sinned. She immediately insisted he was going to heaven as well because he hadn’t done anything bad. He disagreed again. After about two minutes of bringing her through a few of The Ten Commandments, I asked her again where she would go if she died and stood before God and she said hell, because of her sin against God. It was then that she and her son were ready and willing to listen to the Gospel of God’s grace and intellectually ascended and openly confessed their desire to turn from their sin and place their trust in Christ for forgiveness.
Now that is something only The Law of God can do! In two minutes, a lady goes from seeing herself as spiritually rich to understanding her spiritual poverty and need for Christ’s righteousness. And she wasn’t offended because her conscience was bearing witness with what I was saying to her regarding God’s Law. And this is something I have been privileged to witness first hand on countless occasions over years of witnessing to people in various settings. People go from boasting about their goodness to professing their just condemnation before God simply by looking at their lives in light of God’s Holy Law.
So, if we desire to see our neighbor truly and objectively blessed, we would do well to follow in the footsteps of Jesus and teach people the commandments of God. If we want our neighbor to see themselves as poor in spirit, it is “the peculiar function of The Law” as stated by Martin Lloyd-Jones which brings such an understanding to a person’s mind and conscience. If we want our neighbor to hunger and thirst for righteousness, they must understand that there is coming a “day on which He will judge the world in righteousness” (Acts 17:31) and that the standard of righteousness is a perfect Law which they have failed to live up to and meet its requirements. And if we want our neighbor to weep over their sin as David did, they must see the exceeding sinfulness of their sin (Rom 7:13) and understand that their sin is against God and God alone (Psalm 51:4). This again is one of the peculiar functions of God’s Law as it works in the heart, mind and conscience of sinful men.
And when it does its work and people are blessed, their life will be one in which they have the kingdom of God, they are fully and eternally satisfied and they are filled with laughter and rejoicing (Luke 6:20-23). There is no greater hope we can have for the lost souls around us. May it be our life’s goal and aim to use all the auxiliary we have at our disposal to help those around us come into a right relationship with the King of Kings and Lord of Lords and to be Truly Blessed by God!