I had the privilege of helping teach a class during my last year in divinity school. It was a great opportunity, but I was in way over my head. My task was to lecture on Christianity in the 10-14th century. Lots of popes and monks. To make matters worse, it was to first year students at 8:00am. I felt like I was doing okay, particularly because one student seemed to be really enjoying the lectures. I felt good until one day she told me that she tried to smile and nod a lot in class whenever she felt like I needed encouragement or seemed lost in my lecture.
Before that conversation, I had thought I was a pretty big deal. Fortunately, that student was there to bring me back to reality. If we are honest, we like to think pretty highly of ourselves. We make ourselves seem better that we really are. We are big on declaring our rights pursuing our happiness. We often act as if we are the most important people in the world. It’s our human nature to act this way. In a sense it is pride. In another sense it is self-worship.
In the Beatitudes for today, we are reminded that the attitude of a disciple has nothing to do with such pride. In our passage we see Jesus praising the meek and those who hunger for righteousness.
Let’s start with the meek. The error we could make would be to think that Jesus wants all of his followers to be meek and unassuming. What Jesus is actually saying is that those who stand in humble submission to God will inherit great spiritual inheritance. This means acknowledging that all we have has been given to us by God. It means acknowledging that the skills and abilities that we have are God-given gifts that we are to use for God’s glory. The meek do not lay claim to their own little kingdom. Instead, they know that they are part of a much greater kingdom and serve a king that has much more authority than they could ever exhibit.
Jesus turns from the meek to those who hunger for righteousness. Consider those times when you have been truly thirsty or hungry. Think about the desperation you had for a sip of water on an incredibly hot day. The picture Jesus gives here is of someone whose principle desire is to follow after a life of righteous and holy living. This is not the picture of someone who begrudgingly follows the commands of Jesus. Rather, it is the joyous pursuit of a life that is lived for God through obedience to God’s word. It is also not a picture of self-righteousness where we would celebrate our holiness on our own behalf and congratulate ourselves for our good works. We do our good works for God’s glory and not for our own.
These two Beatitudes go against some very mainstream messages in our world today. While the world tells us to pursue greatness, we understand that we reserve greatness only for our God. When the world tells us that we can make our own rules based on our own morality, we understand that our moral code is found in the character and calling of our God. Once again we are reminded that a disciple of Christ is called to live with an entirely different kingdom in mind.
Spend time today asking yourself why you do things that we would consider right or even righteous. Is it for your own glory? Spend time asking how hungry you really are to live in obedience to God. Ask God to stir in you a hunger for righteousness. Rest in the promise that you will be fulfilled.