Most worldviews have a long heritage although certain particulars may change. Additionally, some may have a similar worldview, but be at complete odds with one another. For instance, the worldview that is based upon a single God who is sovereign over the universe is often called Theism. Authentic Christianity certainly has this worldview, but so does Islam (and Judaism). Some call Christianity its own worldview, and that is fine. My point is not to get into the details of various worldviews, but to simply state that multiple worldviews exist and they affect our thoughts and beliefs.
The Sermon on the Mount was meant to change the peoples’ worldview. Specifically, Jesus wanted to take their thoughts away from the world and invite them to consider the Kingdom. Remember, Jesus has just declared that the “kingdom of God is at hand.” That is, the kingdom is near, so you need to adapt your mindset (i.e. worldview) to consider God and His Kingdom, not just yourself or your place in your world.
As we go through this series, my intention is to help make that distinction as often as I can. Each week, I intend to use the same format to look at these verses in light of what the people in the first century were thinking, what Jesus said, how our world may misapply the teachings of Jesus and how having a true knowledge of God will affect our thinking. We will do so with the mindset that God truly means what He says when God spoke to Habakkuk saying, “For the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord as the waters cover the sea.” (Hab. 2.14) Whatever mindset you may have, or whatever worldview you may claim, God is saying knowledge of Me and My glory will one day be known everywhere and when that happens your understanding of life will be changed forever. The Sermon on the Mount is a part of God’s glory being made known to man.
Take a moment to read Matthew 5.3-6.
What did the people think?
It is critical that we remember Jesus has just launched His ministry. People were gathering around Him because of what He was doing (see Matt 4.23-25). Now this man who has been healing others and teaching in the synagogues is now taking his teaching to the masses. What would Jesus say? And what did He mean that the kingdom of heaven was near? Before we can understand what Jesus meant, we have to understand the way they thought. Granted, this isn’t their complete worldview, but compared to the verses we will cover today, we can get a glimpse.
The 1st Century Jews believed:
- that God showed favor to those who had material wealth. The poor (in spirit, in wealth, etc) were always on the outside looking in.
- mourning was important. When someone died, the family often paid others to mourn with them (professional mourners).
- Rome and some Jewish authorities had full control. A few groups fought against this notion, but they were put in their place, so it was best to avoid the attention of the authorities.
- that food and drink were natural, but being filled would have been rare. Having a day’s supply of food was reasonable for most families, but little more.
What did Jesus say?
Jesus uses a traditional Jewish structure as He speaks. The idea of “Blessed are the...” are called the Beatitudes from the Latin word for blessings. But the idea can be better understood as “It is well with those who...” or “Happy are those who...” (It means far more than our understanding of happy, but the word does translate that way.) Essentially, Jesus is saying that current circumstances are not the end. Whatever you face now pales in comparison to what is available in the Kingdom of God. In other words, don’t let your earthly experiences define you, focus on what God can, and is, doing.
Happy are those who are poor in spirit...the Kingdom of heaven is theirs.
Think about this statement. First, it is in the present tense – this one and the last one are the only beatitudes in the present tense (the next six are future oriented). Second, Jesus is saying that the Kingdom of Heaven does not just belong to God, it belongs to the people – “theirs” is a possessive word! What a promise! You may be poor here, but if you are poor in spirit, then you are truly wealthy – all that God has is yours.
Happy are those who mourn...they will be comforted.
Having people cry and mourn with you may bring some solace in the moment, but comfort goes to the core. True mourning brings true comfort in time – especially when the comforter is God.
Happy are those who are meek, they will inherit the earth.
You are more than you imagine, but you may not be able to express it as you wish. That’s ok, you may not have much in this life, but what awaits you is far more than you can fathom.
Happy are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, they will be satisfied.
You may eat today, but you will be hungry again tomorrow. The same is true with thirst. But if you truly seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness (6.33), you will be satisfied eternally.
I have paraphrased Jesus intent, but before we look at them through a biblical worldview, let us take a look at what the world says. In doing so, we must remember Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians 2.12,14 that the world cannot truly understand the things of God because those without the Spirit truly cannot understand (1 Cor. 2.12,14).
What does our world say?
Being poor in spirit will get you nowhere. You have to look out for number 1, otherwise the world will just walk all over you. There is truth in that idea...no one cares about you more than you, but being poor in spirit is about our place before God as we will see in a moment.
Mourning is for wimps. Sure, you are sad, but get up and get busy. The world waits for no one, so if you aren’t tough enough to suck it up and keep going, someone else will take your place. (Thankfully, this notion is changing in many cases, but much progress remains.)
We trample the meek because the meek are weak. We will just do what we want because it is not like they (the meek) will stop us. If they don’t want to play our way, we will simply run them over and force our will upon them.
If you want to be righteous, don’t put that on me. I am going to do things my way. Besides you are a hypocrite anyway.
Granted, I may be overdramatizing these statements slightly, but not much. The world is opposed to the Kingdom – the mindset (worldview) is entirely different. The world says “I/Me” whereas the Kingdom says “Us/We.” And the biggest part of that community is God. So, we now move to our central question:
How would having a knowledge of the glory of the Lord affect these ideas? In other words, how should we apply what Jesus said?
Before we cover the four statements of blessing, we must realize that Jesus is about to give a set of rules for living within the Kingdom. But before He does He gives us these blessing statements to show that God is about relationship; the rules only stem from that relationship. This is the same format God used before giving the commandments to the Israelites on another mountain (Sinai) in the Old Testament (beginning with Exodus 20).
Poor in Spirit – Having a knowledge of the glory of God helps us know that God’s glory far surpasses ours. Thus, being poor in spirit is about our realizing our place as inferior to God. Being poor in spirit is not about having a weak faith, it is about having a faith that relies on God because we, ourselves, are weak. It is God that makes heaven available to us, not the other way around, so we must remain humble before Him. In fact, the next three beatitudes stem from this idea.
Mourn – Having a knowledge of the glory of God helps us care about life as God does. Bereavement is a natural part of loss, but this mourning goes deeper. Do our concerns match the cares of God? Do we see the injustices of the world as He sees them? God will comfort us, in part, now, but our true comfort will come when we are with Him.
Meek – Having a knowledge of the glory of God helps us realize that meekness is not weakness, but is controlled strength. Jesus was powerful (Matt. 26.53), but controlled His strength to accomplish the will of the Father. The reality is that many who exert their power do so to control very little. The promise of Jesus is that those who are meek now will not have a little, but will inherit the earth! Thus, we can pursue a little of the world, or we can have it all in God’s timing!
Hunger and Thirst for Righteousness – Having a knowledge of the glory of God helps us to know what righteousness is. Having this knowledge helps us to understand that we are imperfect beings who must seek out one who is far better than us. It helps us understand what “seek first the Kingdom of heaven” might mean, even if we do not fully fathom it.
These first four beatitudes are an introduction to the Kingdom of heaven of which Jesus spoke as He began His ministry. It is the first part of His making these fishermen (and others) fishers of men. And although our cultures may be very different, Jesus’ teaching then still applies to us today. I will remind you that a sign-up sheet for RightNow Media is in the back. We will show the preview clip again in a couple of weeks, but this resource can help keep you focused on being a disciple.
At the beginning of this message, I mentioned the idea of worldviews. The idea that Jesus wanted to convey was that the normal course of events may cause us to be concerned, but in God’s Kingdom the concepts are quite different. In fact, later in this sermon, Jesus says we have no reason to be anxious if we are focused on God. In the verses we reviewed today, He says we are blessed (or should be happy) if we focus on God. In other words, “Don’t worry; be happy.” (Yes, I am an 80’s music junkie).
So, with that said, our JOURNEY letter for today is once again the full word:
All of us need to shift our mindset to become more like Jesus, and some need to change their worldview entirely. But wherever we are on our JOURNEY, we must remember that we do not walk this path alone. We have others nearby who will encourage us, and some who will battle with us. Ultimately the war has been won, which should cause our desires to be to live for the Victor. And it should cause us to take our living to another level – in discipleship, fellowship, worship, service, and sharing the gospel.
NEXT LEVEL STEP(S): LEARN
How would having the knowledge of the glory of the Lord impact this teaching?
Take time this week to consider your worldview. Do some research and be honest with yourself to see if you fit one (or more) of the worldviews mentioned in this sight or others.