Take a minute to read the passage above. If you have read it before, attempt to read it this time as if it is the first time you have encountered the ideas and the content within the passage.
There was a guy who worked with me one time who had a very odd sense of fairness. We had been working on some big projects that made for a pretty busy week. By the time Friday came, we only had a few more things to do, but my coworker informed me that he was going to be using his Friday in the office to relax and watch some movies at his desk. When I inquired why he thought that was a reasonable thing to do, he informed me that he had worked really hard all week and he deserved some down time now. He could not be convinced that the expectation was that, when at work, we are to work hard all the time. In his mind we owed him some down time because of all of his previous hard work.
If we are honest, there is a major part of us that would love figure out a way to make God owe us some type of blessing for the things we do as a part of our faith. It is in our nature to think that if we do something for God, then he owes us something in return. On our best days we see this attempt to manipulate God as something deeply misguided. On other days, we wonder why we don’t have what we want to have when we have been doing our “best” to follow God. Surely that would be fair. Or, could it be that God expects us to work hard every day to follow him and do his will?
In our passage today we are introduced to what are typically called the Beatitudes. These are essentially wisdom statements made by Jesus at the beginning of the Sermon on the Mount that inform us how we might be blessed by God. Understand, however, that these are not formulas to getting a better job or a bigger bank account. It is not: be humble get a promotion.
The Beatitudes allow us to see the type of character that a true disciple of Christ would exhibit in his or her life. One way to approach these Beatitudes is to see the first four as the attitudes with which we approach God. This would mean that we approach God with humility, brokenness over sin, and a desire to live obediently. The next four would be the way that we are to live out our faith in the world. This would mean that as disciples we are called to be peacemakers, to show mercy, to demonstrate purity, and to be willing to face persecution through steadfastly clinging to our calling as disciples.
Again, it is important not to see this set of statements as a way to make God do anything for us. If the only blessing we experience as a result of living this way is eternal life, I would say we got a pretty good deal. However, as many followers of Christ would tell you, the actual blessings typically come as you live life the way that God intended for you to live.
Take some time today to really ask yourself what you expect from God. Do you think that God owes you because of your devotion? What motivates you to spend time with God or to practice spiritual disciplines? Do you give so that you might receive or do you give because God is honored through your giving? Ask God whether your motivations need to change. Ask him to reveal the ways that he has already blessed you.