As we continue to explore how to change our attitudes as this new year begins, we look to the beatitudes of Jesus from the gospel of Matthew’s lengthy Sermon on the Mount. We’ve already discovered that “Blessed are you” has very different connotations than we may be aware of (read the intro here if you’re behind on your beatitudes) and “Meekness,” although not a popular quality, can teach us how to be obedient to our rock-star teacher, who was self-described as meek (read about “Meek” by clicking here).
Today we take another look at the beatitudes by reading The Message translation by Eugene Peterson:
When Jesus saw his ministry drawing huge crowds, he climbed a hillside. Those who were apprenticed to him, the committed, climbed with him. Arriving at a quiet place, he sat down and taught his climbing companions. This is what he said:
“You’re blessed when you’re at the end of your rope. With less of you there is more of God and his rule.
“You’re blessed when you feel you’ve lost what is most dear to you. Only then can you be embraced by the One most dear to you.
“You’re blessed when you’re content with just who you are—no more, no less. That’s the moment you find yourselves proud owners of everything that can’t be bought.
“You’re blessed when you’ve worked up a good appetite for God. He’s food and drink in the best meal you’ll ever eat.
“You’re blessed when you care. At the moment of being ‘care-full,’ you find yourselves cared for.
“You’re blessed when you get your inside world—your mind and heart—put right. Then you can see God in the outside world.
“You’re blessed when you can show people how to cooperate instead of compete or fight. That’s when you discover who you really are, and your place in God’s family.
“You’re blessed when your commitment to God provokes persecution. The persecution drives you even deeper into God’s kingdom.
“Not only that—count yourselves blessed every time people put you down or throw you out or speak lies about you to discredit me. What it means is that the truth is too close for comfort and they are uncomfortable. You can be glad when that happens—give a cheer, even!—for though they don’t like it, I do! And all heaven applauds. And know that you are in good company. My prophets and witnesses have always gotten into this kind of trouble.
Typically, the translation for “end of your rope” reads “Poor in spirit.” In the Lukan version of the beatitudes, we read merely “Poor.” But recognizing that a majority of my readers are not economically “Poor” in any sense of the word, I love this translation for “Poor in Spirit”: “You’re blessed when you’re at the end of your rope.” I love it because those words are absolutely more fitting to our context and actually make a lot of sense. When you’re at the end of your rope (and we all get there sometimes), you recognize your deep and essential need to give God control of your life. It’s unfortunate that we must find ourselves dangling precariously before we turn it all over to God, but it is our human nature to do so. Peterson says, “With less of you there is more of God and his rule.” If we were to change our attitudes for 2018, we might decide not to wait until that last minute emergency to turn to God.
And what would that look like? We would empty ourselves of everything except God; we would allow the character traits that Jesus expounds upon here to permeate our very lives and begin to be filled with an amazing, fresh perspective! Instead of bemoaning our desperation, we could be praising God for filling our every need and trusting God to provide. We would be less stingy with our own abundance (whether it be food, time, money, etc) and more willing to show generosity to anyone who had a need.
Our (be)Attitude Change for 2018 is really shaping up to be a challenge. My prayer for you is that you will find yourselves rethinking your reactions and interactions with our world; and that in your re-thinking process you can begin to embrace Jesus’ challenging teachings. Don’t be discouraged if your perspective doesn’t change right away. You can always try again tomorrow. And you will find yourself blessed, indeed (even in the failing).