In these days he went out to the mountain to pray, and all night he continued in prayer to God. 13 And when day came, he called his disciples and chose from them twelve, whom he named apostles: 14 Simon, whom he named Peter, and Andrew his brother, and James and John, and Philip, and Bartholomew, 15 and Matthew, and Thomas, and James the son of Alphaeus, and Simon who was called the Zealot, 16 and Judas the son of James, and Judas Iscariot, who became a traitor.
17 And he came down with them and stood on a level place, with a great crowd of his disciples and a great multitude of people from all Judea and Jerusalem and the seacoast of Tyre and Sidon, 18 who came to hear him and to be healed of their diseases. And those who were troubled with unclean spirits were cured. 19 And all the crowd sought to touch him, for power came out from him and healed them all.
20 And he lifted up his eyes on his disciples, and said:
“Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God.
21 “Blessed are you who are hungry now, for you shall be satisfied.
“Blessed are you who weep now, for you shall laugh.
22 “Blessed are you when people hate you and when they exclude you and revile you and spurn your name as evil, on account of the Son of Man! 23 Rejoice in that day, and leap for joy, for behold, your reward is great in heaven; for so their fathers did to the prophets. – Luke 6:12-22 [ESV]
We made tee shirts with the Hebrew word for “blessed” printed on them. We also included the Greek as well. They were in support of the sermon series we were using titled, you guessed it… “Blessed.” Now, however, I tend to shy away from the word blessed in favor of the word grateful. For each of us is blessed in so many ways. We live and move and breathe each day by God’s gracious provision. We have food and shelter, clothing, blue sky, and green lawns. In so many ways we are blessed.
But we are not all grateful. Too often the blessings of God are ignored, taken for granted, or even despised. It’s as though we are not truly grateful unless we receive just exactly what we long for in the moment. I’m reminded of the hymn, Forgive us, Lord, for shallow thankfulness.
Forgive us, Lord, for shallow thankfulness,
For dull content with warmth and sheltered care,
For songs of praise for food and harvest press,
While of Your richer gifts we’re unaware:
Jesus points us to a greater blessing than those things we typically think of in that category. He says the poor, the hungry, those who mourn, and those who suffer for Christ are blessed. Doesn’t this call for a radical recalibration of our blessing meter? I don’t typically think that way. I’m too worldly-minded.
The only way I can get at this is to understand just how corrupted and upside-down the world is. Somehow the things we associate with blessing – an easy life, fun times, new experiences, peace, and gladness – don’t make the list. I’m thinking that’s because all those things are a pale imitation of the ultimate rest, delight, joy, peace, and happiness that will be ours in the life of the world to come.
I believe it is a good thing to be thankful for the good things we have this side of heaven. The beauty of creation. The love of a spouse. The joy of friendship. Even a good night’s sleep. For all these I thank God. But when I hunger for righteousness (yearn for justice), mourn any sort of loss, or suffer for the sake of the gospel, I am no less blessed. That’s when I must lean of Jesus’ promise that there will be a great heavenly reward for the faithful.