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Jesus' “topsy-turvy” idea of a good life

March 13, 2023

Daily Scripture

Matthew 5:1-16

1 Now when Jesus saw the crowds, he went up a mountain. He sat down and his disciples came to him. 2 He taught them, saying:
3 “Happy are people who are hopeless, because the kingdom of heaven is theirs.
4 “Happy are people who grieve, because they will be made glad.
5 “Happy are people who are humble, because they will inherit the earth.
6 “Happy are people who are hungry and thirsty for righteousness, because they will be fed until they are full.
7 “Happy are people who show mercy, because they will receive mercy.
8 “Happy are people who have pure hearts, because they will see God.
9 “Happy are people who make peace, because they will be called God’s children.
10 “Happy are people whose lives are harassed because they are righteous, because the kingdom of heaven is theirs.
11 “Happy are you when people insult you and harass you and speak all kinds of bad and false things about you, all because of me. 12 Be full of joy and be glad, because you have a great reward in heaven. In the same way, people harassed the prophets who came before you.
13 “You are the salt of the earth. But if salt loses its saltiness, how will it become salty again? It’s good for nothing except to be thrown away and trampled under people’s feet. 14 You are the light of the world. A city on top of a hill can’t be hidden. 15 Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a basket. Instead, they put it on top of a lampstand, and it shines on all who are in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before people, so they can see the good things you do and praise your Father who is in heaven.

Daily Reflection & Prayer

Translators usually choose either “blessed” or “happy” for makarios, the Greek word Matthew used to represent Jesus’ Aramaic teaching. Scholar N. T. Wright said it meant “wonderful news,” explaining, “These ‘blessings’, the ‘wonderful news’ he’s announcing, are not saying ‘try hard to live like this.’ They are saying that people who already are like that are in good shape. They should be happy and celebrate.” * These “beatitudes” were about life in which God reigns, not our ordinary human life.

  • “Jesus’ words may seem strange, since he regards as ‘blessed’ or ‘happy’ those who are usually regarded as…unfortunate….this alerts us to the topsy-turvy nature of Jesus’ teaching….‘Hopeless’ (or ‘poor in spirit’) refers to those who continue to look to God for help in the midst of their present, needy state.” ** What helps you keep looking to God’s world no matter how good or (more often) bad that day’s news headlines feel to you?
  • Scholar William Barclay wrote, people “are to see our good deeds. In Greek there are two words for good. There is… agathos which simply defines a thing as good in quality; there is kalos which means that a thing is not only good, but also winsome and beautiful and attractive. The word used here is kalos.” *** Are there times when you feel like hiding your “light” (God’s presence in your life) under a basket? Prayerfully choose one attractive way you’ll shine your light toward others.

Lord Jesus, in this darkened, lonely, hurting world, make me more and more transparent so that your light can shine out of me like a beacon, spreading love, grace and peace. Amen.

GPS Insights

Picture of Mindy Lahood

Mindy Lahood

Mindy LaHood serves on the Worship Experience team at Church of the Resurrection. She loves all things related to worship and enjoys working with our talented team of staff and volunteers. One of her favorite things to read about and study are stained glass windows, and she considers herself very blessed to work and worship in a place with such a magnificent window.

Are you a glass half empty or a glass half full type of person? Is your natural inclination to smile at people and exude kindness and friendliness, or do you find yourself just doing what you can to keep to yourself? I think most of us waver back and forth between each of these viewpoints and actions from time to time and no matter where we are on that spectrum, it can affect our attitudes, our demeanor, and our overall outlook on life.

I once watched a video about a study on how smiling and kindness can impact a child’s whole outlook and demeanor for their entire school day. They did an experiment where one classroom teacher showed nothing but love and care towards each student, whereas in another classroom the teacher never smiled and only gave instruction–didn’t interact with students at all. As you might guess, the students in the first classroom thrived. They had better test scores, there were fewer behavior problems, and they seemed happier overall. They were also kinder to classmates and often exhibited an “others before me” attitude…being helpful, showing patience and forgiveness when needed, and caring for one another.

When I think about Jesus’ teachings, particularly the Beatitudes, I think of that loving teacher. I imagine Jesus taking a keen interest in the lives of every single person who was there. I imagine his words’ being encouraging with the excitement of good news and not simply sage advice. I imagine him wanting every person there and every person who reads his words today to thrive as they live into the blessings he promises. And not only thrive but exhibit the unmistakable light that comes from receiving those blessings and living life in such a way that others see…being the salt and light of the earth–glorifying God.

I don’t see his list of “Happy are people” as blessings that will only be received in heaven. For instance, I don’t think that he meant “Happy are people who are hopeless, because the kingdom of heaven is theirs”… but they must wait until eternity in heaven. I don’t think “Happy are people who grieve, because they will be made glad”… are destined to grieve their whole lives and only then find happiness in eternity. I could go on, but my point is that I think God wants these blessings for people in the here and now. I believe God wants us to experience the blessings of his kingdom outlined in Matthew 5 “on earth as it is in heaven.” Otherwise, why pray “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done. On earth as it is in heaven”?

I happen to be studying the book of Matthew, and I am so grateful that God is speaking to my heart and reminding me that in my moments of hopelessness, in grief, in humbling myself, in hungering and thirsting for righteousness, in showing mercy, in purity of heart, in efforts to make peace, and in moments of persecution there lie so many bountiful blessings. God is lovingly pouring them into my life so that I can live a life that is thriving and full of love and light.

© 2024 Resurrection: A United Methodist Church. All Rights Reserved.
Scripture quotations are taken from The Common English Bible ©2011. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

* Wright, N.T., Matthew for Everyone, Part 1: Chapters 1-15 (The New Testament for Everyone) (p. 36). Westminster John Knox Press. Kindle Edition.
** Eugene Eung-Chun Park and Joel B. Green, study note on Matthew 5:1-3 in The CEB Study Bible. Nashville: Abingdon Press, 2013, p. 12 NT.
*** William Barclay, Daily Study Bible Series: The Gospel of Matthew—Volume 1 Chapters 1–10 (Revised Edition). Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 1976, p. 125.