We have spent the last month going through an exercise in uncovering disguised blessings and looking at some of the things that can trip us up on our way. We have worked at redefining our idea of good and shifted our thinking about the thorns in our lives. Today, to wrap this all up I want to really dig into the following passage and with the help of Matt Chandler’s and his Blessings and Woes message from February 2008, pull this apart.
Then Jesus turned to his disciples and said, “God blesses you who are poor, for the Kingdom of God is yours. God blesses you who are hungry now, for you will be satisfied. God blesses you who weep now, for in due time you will laugh. What blessings await you when people hate you and exclude you and mock you and curse you as evil because you follow the Son of Man. When that happens, be happy! Yes, leap for joy! For a great reward awaits you in heaven. And remember, their ancestors treated the ancient prophets that same way. “What sorrow awaits you who are rich, for you have your only happiness now. What sorrow waits you who are fat and prosperous now, for a time of awful hunger awaits you. What sorrow awaits you who laugh now, for your laughing will turn to mourning and sorrow. What sorrow awaits you who are praised by the crowds, for their ancestors also praised false prophets. (Luke 6:20-26)
When did those four things become blessing? And then on the tail end, when did wealth, a full stomach, joy and being loved become what we should ascribe to? In every great success story, the key component in every book, everyone who was ever on Oprah is that they moved from here—poverty, rejection, hunger, despair—and they moved to wealth. Isn’t it? Isn’t every great success story marked by someone who moved from here to here? It moves in this direction. But Jesus shows up and goes, “No, no, no. It moves the other way.” But no one has ever made a success story built on, “He was born a billionaire…died decrepit and alone. Selah.” That is not how it works. It moves from poverty, rejection, hungry, sorrow, this way to joy, wealth. But Jesus is going, “Oh no, no, no. It better head the other way.”
So why? Why does it have to head the other direction? According to conventional wisdom this makes absolutely no sense! But this is what I have come to think of as “the burden of a blessing.” This is the refining and testing of our faith. Blessed, truly, deeply blessed, through and amidst grief and fear. Because when we are faced with tragedy, trials and struggling, and realize that we have nothing, that we are nothing, without God then we have begun to realize exactly what Jesus was teaching. This is where transformation happens!
We can learn even more about this passage from Luke 6 when we line it up with Matthew 5. It provides some additional insight and clarity. Whereas Luke 6:20 says “God blesses you who are poor…” Matthew 5:3 says “Blessed are the poor in spirit…” So let’s just jump right in…
Blessed are the poor in spirit, the spiritually bankrupt. Blessed is the person who realizes that he has nothing that he can give to God as a barter for His favor. Blessed are those who know it is not through works that we will find justification because we have nothing To offer God. Blessed are the ones who say, “I can’t figure this out on my own.” They have issues that haunt them and they know they can’t fix themselves. They have been trying and they just can’t get there on their own. Blessed are the poor in spirit.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness. Blessed are those who are hungry for forgiveness, who are hungry for intimacy with God. Blessed are those who are hungry for reconciliation, who are hungry for wholeness. Blessed are the hungry for they will be filled with God.
Blessed are you who weep. Blessed are you who mourn. Mourn the fact that we are bankrupt and starving. Mourn the fact that we are sinners. Blessed are those whose hearts are overwhelmed at the darkness inside of them. Blessed are those whose hearts are repentant. Worldly sorrow says “I’ve made a mess of my life. I wish I wouldn’t have.” But that doesn’t transform souls – that’s just regret. Repentance that leads to transformation says, “I’ve offended and let down God. I’ll now submit my life to Him.”
Finally, blessed are you when people hate you and when they exclude you on account of the Son of Man. Blessed are you when you’ve become so transformed that people see Jesus. I would rather be rejected by 99% of the world and have 1% know me and love me! than be loved falsely by 99% and rejected by the 1%. Blessed are those who are reviled and excluded. Leap for joy, you’ve been transformed.
Woe to you who are full. Woe to you who think you have no need. Woe to you who think you have it all figured out. Woe to you who think you don’t need a power greater than you.
Let’s go back to the beginning of this series…into every life a little rain must fall. So what if His blessings do fall like raindrops and what if healing does indeed come through tears? I believe they do. This life doesn’t necessarily look the way we thought it would. Our prayers may have changed us and not the situation. But if in all of this mess this is really where the true blessings lie, would you recognize them?
Blessings…love, mercy, humility, spirituality, compassion, comfort, hope, forgiveness, grace