April 1, 2016
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.
There’s a single word running through each of these eight statements we haven’t dealt with yet. It is arguably the most important word in the entire Sermon on the Mount. Want to take a guess at what it is?
The word is “blessed.” It’s not “blessed” as in #blessed, or “have a blessed day,” or “I’m blessed.” It cries out for a hyphen between the bless and the ed; as in bless-ed. The Greek word is makarios. It comes from a root word which literally means to become large. Now, I don’t think that means large as in “large and in charge.” It means something more like a person of towering character or a person whose life is larger than life because they have found the source of true life. Makarios often gets translated as meaning, “happy.” The problem with the word, “happy,” is it does not mean what it used to mean. Happy, as in “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness,” does not mean, as is commonly thought, “whatever makes you happy.” It does not mean better vacations and bigger homes and all that. It means human flourishing— a life lived in the way the Creator intended—a life of flourishing in the abundance of God’s provision.
Human flourishing consists in the restored relational capacity of a person to receive the generosity of God through the giving of others and to give to others through the generosity of God—precisely in that order. I think this may be the best way I can describe the essence of the Kingdom of Heaven. It is an extraordinary realm of extravagant generosity where we learn to receive in such a way that we are compelled to give. That’s the big problem with the kingdom of the world. It’s not about giving but getting. It’s not built on generosity but reciprocation—we give in order to get. It’s not about paying it forward, but paying it back. Until we are able to truly receive, we will never be able to truly give and we will build our lives on a transactional model of quid-pro-quo exchanges. (Hint– if you are the kind of person who expects a thank you note it’s a sign you may not be as much of a true giver as you think you are.)
It’s why the sermon begins with the bless-ed-ness of the poor in spirit and moves to the broken and on to meekness and the emptiness of hunger and thirst for a righteousness beyond we they could ever muster. These are the ones who can receive from God. And consequently, these are the ones who can give to others through merciful, pure hearted lives of holy love in the sight of God. Bless-ed-ness means the true happiness of human flourishing in the generous abundance of God’s Kingdom.
Pop singer, Pharrell Williams, released a massively popular song in 2014 entitled, “Happy.” It’s wildly fun, vaguely thin song, but one lyric in particular continues to capture my attention. “Clap along if you feel like happiness is the truth.” I can’t say what Pharrell meant, but I do think this is right. Happiness, or bless-ed-ness, is the truth and it can only be experienced in the Kingdom of God.
So clap along. . . . ;0)
1. Take a minute and think through the contrast in what the world commonly thinks of as “happiness” as contrasted to the biblical meaning of the concept of bless-ed-ness.
2. Why do you think so few people actually find true happiness, or “bless-ed-ness,” in the way Jesus describes it?
3. What most holds you back from this kind of life? Are you a person who has learned to receive?
J.D. Walt, is a Bond Slave of the Lord Jesus Christ. firstname.lastname@example.org.