daily biblical sermons

Jesus' Beatitudes are a reversal of worldly values
Fr. Steven Scherrer, MM, Th.D.
Homily of Monday, 10th Week of the Year, June 08, 2020
1 Kings 17:1-6, Psalm 120, Matthew 5:1-12


Biblical quotations are taken from the Revised Standard Version unless otherwise noted




“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted. Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied. Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy. Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God. Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when men revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so men persecuted the prophets who were before you” (Matthew 5:3-12).



Here is Jesus’ program for the kingdom of God on earth that he is establishing. Jesus’ Beatitudes do not present God’s plan of salvation for the world and how it is obtained in Jesus Christ through his death and resurrection by means of our faith in him. All of this is assumed, for here Jesus is presenting the way of life of the members of the kingdom, of those who have already believed in him for their salvation. He shows what type of people kingdom people are, what type of values they live by, namely kingdom values, which in many ways are the opposite of worldly values.



The world will not tell people that those that are poor are happy, that those that weep, that are hungry and thirsty, that are pure in heart, and that are persecuted are the happiest of all. Worldly people that live by worldly values will tell you pretty much the opposite of all this, namely that those that are rich will be happy, those that laugh and rejoice, that are self-assertive, that are full and well-satisfied, and that are not persecuted are the ones that will really be happy.



So we see that Jesus in many ways reverses worldly values and presents opposite values, kingdom values. These are the characteristics that Jesus wants to see in his followers, and he tells them that if they display these characteristics in their life, they will be happy in the innermost part of their spirit, for they will be living in harmony with God and will experience his heavenly peace and joy in their heart.



First of all Jesus tells us, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:3). This does not refer to a person’s natural condition, but rather “to one’s deliberate choice” (William MacDonald, Believer’s Bible Commentary (Thomas Nelson, 1989), page 1216). One who is poor in spirit seeks to have an undivided heart in his love for God. He does not want his heart divided by being enchanted by and following after the pleasures, delights, attractions, distractions, and temptations of the world, all of which will dilute his love for the Lord and his happiness of living in the kingdom of God. In order to avoid this division of heart in which the love of one’s heart is dissipated and dispersed in many useless and even harmful and sinful directions, one must, by personal decision, become poor in spirit, eliminating from his life unnecessary worldly pleasures and living in great simplicity in what he eats, how he spends his time, and in the activities he engages in.



He will not be going to nice restaurants and ordering the most expensive steaks and meals. He will not be on a dinner party circuit with late night drinking and heavy and rich eating and consequent late rising with lack of time for prayer and meditation in the morning and lack of energy to do anything worthwhile for the Lord the next morning.



Rather, he will live a quiet and peaceful life, avoiding worldliness in his lifestyle, avoiding imitating the lifestyle of the world around him, which is basically pleasure-centered and self-centered, for the person that has chosen to be poor in spirit wants to live for the Lord alone with all the love of his heart, with no division in his heart in his love for the Lord, to the degree that that is possible in this life.



But the world will laugh at him, mock him, and call him poor in spirit. He will be persecuted for the sake of Christ, because of the way he has chosen to live for the love of the Lord with all his heart and soul and for organizing his life accordingly so that this might be possible. Blessed is he, happy is he, he has embraced the kingdom and kingdom values and will experience the joy and peace of the Lord in his heart.



To be poor in spirit is to serve one master only, the Lord, not worldly enjoyment, for “no one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon [worldly wealth and the pleasures it buys]” (Matthew 6:24).



In other words, a disciple of Jesus that decides to become poor in spirit, will seek to love God with his whole heart and soul, mind and strength, which is Jesus’ first and most important commandment (Mark 12:30). He will renounce many enjoyments that worldly people seek, and in this self-denial he will find his happiness in the Lord, for his heart and mind will not be distracted and divided away from a pure love of the Lord alone with all the love of his heart.



He will receive a hundredfold reward in inner heavenly peace and deep spiritual joy in his heart, for “Every one who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or lands, for my name’s sake, will receive a hundredfold, and inherit eternal life” (Matthew 19:29).



A person who decides to be poor in spirit and follow these other Beatitudes, which are very similar and in a sense expound in detail what being poor in spirit involves – such a person will lose his life in this world, and worldly people will consider that he has indeed lost his life in the world by the way he has chosen to live. He does so, “For whoever would save his life [in a worldly way by worldly living] will lose it; and whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it” (Mark 8:35).



Indeed, “He who loves his life [by living in a worldly, self-centered way] loses it, and he who hates his life in this world [by living for the Lord alone] will keep it for eternal life” (John 12:25). Those that are poor in spirit live a life of self-denial. They do not seek out the finest food. In fact, they do just the opposite. They go out of their way to eat the simplest, healthiest food they can find, and they live in the simplest way they can, devoting themselves to worthwhile work for the Lord and avoiding self-centered entertainments that only dilute, weaken, distract, and divide one’s love for the Lord.



Such people follow Jesus’ advice on how a disciple should live, for he said, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me” (Luke 9:23 NKJV). This way of life, this kingdom living, requires self-denial and renunciation of many worldly enjoyments, possessions, and activities, for otherwise one will not succeed in his attempt at kingdom living, nor will he succeed in gaining possession of the treasure, which is the kingdom of God in our heart.



One who seeks to live by kingdom values, which are clearly alternative values to those of this world, will be like the man who discovered a treasure in a field, and in order to gain possession of it, sold everything he had to get enough money to buy that field so that he could claim the treasure as his own, for the treasure is worth far more than all he sold in order to get it (Matthew 13:44).



The one who makes himself poor in spirit for the love of the Lord will freely choose a harder and more difficult way of living if than worldly people do, for they normally seek out and choose the easiest and broadest path, not realizing that it leads to destruction. The one that is poor in spirit will be among the few that refuse to take the wide and easy path of most people around him, and will rather choose the narrow, steep, and difficult path that leads to life (Matthew 7:13-14).



He will seek to have one treasure only, the Lord, and to eliminate distractions. He will not build up a large bank account for his own pleasures, for Jesus said, “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth … but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven … For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also” (Matthew 6:19-24).



He will avoid not only earthly treasures but also unnecessary worldly pleasures, for he will see that these are like weeds, and he is like a seed sown in their midst, for they will choke him so that he will not be able to mature and produce good fruit for the Lord, for his emotional and affective energies will be dissipated and sapped in many directions by the weeds. The weeds are unnecessary worldly pleasures and a worldly way of living, for concerning “what [the seed] fell among the thorns, they are those who hear, but as they go their way they are choked by the cares and riches and pleasures of life, and their fruit does not mature” (Luke 8:14).



One that decides to be poor in spirit will live a radical life, requiring much renunciation, but the reward will be great, for he will be a true disciple of the Lord and will be happy with true happiness in his inner spirit, for “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:3).


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