“When Jesus saw the crowds, he went up the mountain; and after he sat down, his disciples came to him. Then he began to speak, and taught them, saying: ‘Blessed are…’”
Contemporary Bible versions often translate the beatitudes as a prescription for happiness: “How happy are the poor in spirit…How happy are those who mourn… How happy are the meek…”. But John Stott, in his commentary on the Sermon on the Mount, says that it is “seriously misleading” to think of being blessed as being happy. Stott writes:
For happiness is a subjective state, where Jesus is making an objective judgment about these people. He is declaring not what they feel like (‘happy’), but what God thinks of them and what on that account they are: they are ‘blessed’ (The Message of the Sermon on the Mount).
In the beatitudes Jesus describes a depth and dimension of life far greater than being happy. To be blessed in Biblical terms is to be the object of God’s favor. This is in contrast to our word “happy”, which is derived from the Old Norse word “happ”, meaning “chance” and “good luck”. We see this Old Norse root in our words “per-haps”, “hap-hazzard”, and “happ-enstance”, all referring to events that are circumstantial. Thus, being happ-y depends entirely on what happ-ens.
But being blessed or the object of God’s favor is something very different than being the victim of circumstances. The quest for understanding the blessed life went back to the Wisdom Literature of the Old Testament:
Psalm 1:1 “Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly…”
Psalm 32:1 “Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven…”
Psalm 33:12 “Blessed is the nation whose God is the LORD.”
The blessed life is about being favored by God, not about our feelings. But then, what could make us any happier than to know God favors us! In His beatitudes Jesus challenges what the world considers as being blessed. I tend naturally to think of being blessed as getting a raise in salary, a good report from my doctor, or going on a cruise. But strangely, Jesus says that God’s blessings come when we might least expect them: when we are poor in spirit, grieving, meek, and being persecuted for His sake. We are truly blessed as we become more and more the people God created us to be.
PONDER AND PRAY
“Blessed are those whose strength is in you.”
- I have a friend who is a pastor to homeless people. He tells them they are blessed by God because they know how much they need to depend upon God every day. What do you think about the pastor’s words?
- Winston Churchill’s wife once told him that a setback in his life might be “a blessing in disguise”. To which Churchill replied: “At the moment it seems quite effectively disguised.” Can you discern in your life what might be ‘a blessing in disguise’?
- Do you feel you are blessed by God? If so, how?
- What do you want To Say To God?