Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Count Your Blessings - Carefully

Please think with me today: What are your blessings? And what are the blessings you seek?

I heard the following contrast in a sermon the other day (by Charles Zimmerman of Calvary Church in Souderton, PA):

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 receive 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 others 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 they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

That was Jesus from the Sermon on the Mount. On the other hand…

Blessed are the rich, for they will acquire for they will acquire whatever they desire.
Blessed are the self-confident, for they will achieve whatever they set out to do.
Blessed are the physically attractive, for they will be admired by all.
Blessed are those who have no problems, for they will enjoy life.
Blessed are the powerful, for they will rule the earth.
Blessed are those who seek pleasure, for they will be satisfied.
Blessed are the self-absorbed for they will be untroubled by the plight of others.
Blessed are those who have seared their conscience, for they will suffer no guilt.
Blessed are those who intimidate others, for they will win all personal battles.
Blessed are those who blend in with culture, for they will experience no persecution.

Your reaction may be similar to mine. At first I thought, “Okay, that’s cute…”

But as I thought more deeply, I realized just how true – and troubling - it is. We live by that second value system all too often, certainly key portions of it. Maybe the problem is that we think Jesus’ words are merely “cute” – and fail to take them to heart.


njcopperhead said...

Wow, that is very insightful. Turning the Beatitudes on their head (the "Meatutides" perhaps?) seems to form an unholy combination of American business practices, a self-help book and a Nike commercial. I was particularly struck by "those who intimidate others". This is a common political and negotiation tool I see on the job in NY. I have to be on guard against seeing this as an acceptable means of dealing with others.

Wartburg said...

"The essence of their teaching [Jews] was this: “If a man is successful here on earth, he is blessed and well off.” That was all they aimed for, that if they were pious and served God, He should give them plenty upon earth and deprive them of nothing.

The Jews were firmly persuaded that if a man was successful, this was a sign that he had a gracious God, and vice versa. The reason for this was the fact that they had many great promises from God regarding the temporal, physical goods that He would grant to the pious. They counted upon these, in the opinion that if they had this, they were right with Him. The Book of Job is addressed to this theory. His friends argue and dispute with him about this and insist that he is being punished this way because of some great sin he must have knowingly committed against God. Therefore he ought to admit it, be converted, and become pious, that God might lift the punishment from him."-Martin Luther

Joseph Adrian said...

There are excellent insights in the contrast of the Beattiudes(and Meattitudes as Wayne has called them).One of the issues at hand is:
Are what length are we willing to go ,to consistently embrace God's standard and to reject the 'World's standards'.The Lord calls His people to live for Him(one way we do this,is by denying ourselves,and living to serve others and glorify our Father in heaven).The world's way of living is to look out for our interests(look out for #1,forget about anyone else).I think all Christians struggle with this to varying degrees(and the degrees are different at different stages of our lives,and vary with our circumstances as well).The root of selfishness remains in us till the day we die and go to be with the Lord. By God's grace we need to mortify the deeds of the flesh and this is a daily battle for every believer.It is usually healthy to evaluate our lives and ask the question(Am I living for Christ or for myself?).An honest answer may often be that (I am living far more for self than Christ).If the the Spirit of God convicts us of this,then God by His Spirit can work in us to change the balance of the scales in that regard,and make us more useful in His service in the coming days.