More, if your interested: First, the Beatitudes can only be understood in light of worldly categories, because Jesus’ words are aimed at those who aren’t making the cut. Jesus speaks to those who aren’t “in style.” Because they don’t excel in the worldly categories that offer worth—categories like power, wealth, health, intelligence or physical attractiveness—these people are deemed “worthless.” Second, the Beatitudes affirm that all of the world operates in these categories. It’s not as though these outcasts are necessarily more righteous—they, too, have tried to fit into the categories of power, wealth, health, intelligence or physical attractiveness that the world had created, it’s just that they can’t. Third, the Beatitudes affirm that worldly categories destroy. Jesus’ words expose a deeper, more disturbing truth: the world’s categories can only function if some get left out. Just as fads must be exclusive, worldly categories thrive on the idea that only a select few can obtain status. Using these categories, the world creates a hierarchy between the “haves” and the “have nots”—the advantaged and the disadvantaged—the accepted and the outcasts—the “in” and the “out”. In the shifting sands of social order, it’s hard to stay on top for long. The same forces that give you an advantage now will give that advantage to others in the end. All who play by the world’s categories—even the “in crowd”—will, in the end, lose their life.
As remember this joyful news, we need, also, to
consider what it means for our lives.
How does the resurrection free us from
destructive ways of life?
Here’s a brief look at what Jesus said it meant
when he lived on earth.
The Beatitudes - Matt. 5:3-11
He said: 3 “Blessed are the poor in spirit,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
4 Blessed are those who mourn,
for they will be comforted.
5 Blessed are the meek,
for they will inherit the earth.
6 Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
for they will be filled.
7 Blessed are the merciful,
for they will be shown mercy.
8 Blessed are the pure in heart,
for they will see God.
9 Blessed are the peacemakers,
for they will be called children of God.
10 Blessed are those who are persecuted because of
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
11 “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and
falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. 12 Rejoice
and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the
same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
If you would prefer to hear the Beatitudes spoken, go to this link. The video speaks the NIV version, but the screen
shows the Message translation. Beatitudes Spoken
Think back to a fad you embraced.
• A mullet or perm?
• Sideburns it took all of
sophomore year to grow?
• Windpants that gave you a
such great figure?
• Beanie babies that are now
worth a fortune?
We laugh and wonder how we could have done these absurd things! But
perhaps, just as jokes are rarely funny unless they have a grain of truth, fads
are only funny because they are an extreme form of a widely accepted
practice: that is, basing our decisions on what the world around us tells us will
make us happy and help us feel important. Fads are a microcosm of a larger
reality in which we base our lives on worldly categories that promise status
Though we eventually see the futility and even the significant cost of buying in
to fads, we still remain blind to the ways we allow the world to dictate our
self-image and actions on a larger scale. If fads cost us our time and money,
what might a lifetime of buying in to the worlds’ categories cost us?
Jesus, through his life and death, came to help us see that it costs us our life.
Jesus exposes worldly categories
• The Beatitudes only make sense in light of
– The world finds value in wealth, health,
intelligence, attractiveness; the Beatitudes
are spoken to those who don’t “fit in.”
• The Beatitudes affirm that all of the world
operates in these categories
• The Beatitudes demonstrate that worldly
Jesus, erased the
saved us from
Although they provide a depressing picture of the
mess of selfishness and pain, in which all of God’s
creation has voluntarily become enslaved, the
Beatitudes are actually the most powerful and
merciful words every spoken. The describe God’s
response to our mess:
God did the most merciful thing God could do.
God erased the categories and saved us from
ourselves. Jesus, in his life, spoke and acted as if
these categories no longer existed! God can, and
will, bless anyone. The world may find value in
health, wealth, power, and happiness, but God is
now with those who don’t have these things.
God is the only one qualified to give value, and
God gives it to everyone, even, and especially, to
those the world has labeled “worthless.”
Thus, through his words and life and death—and
especially his resurrection—Jesus called his followers to
live free from these destructive worldly categories by
depending on God.
We depend on God for our identity and value. We see
others as valuable because they are God’s children.
We live out the very definition of a “Christian
community”: a group of people who, by depending on
God, enact this new, category-free reality in their
Continue on to consider how we can pray for this mindset in our own lives, and see how
it can inform our study of history.