A possible interpretation of Matthew 5

When I was a kid, Jesus’ words of Matthew 5 made no sense to me.  When I became an adult they still made no sense.  When I gave my life to Jesus they started to make sense.

Matthew 5

1  And seeing the multitudes, He went up
on a mountain, and when He was seated
His disciples came to Him. 2  Then He
opened His mouth and taught them,
saying:

(Jesus’ words)                                          
(How I interpret them, not necessarily accurately)

3    “Blessed are the poor in spirit,
    For theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Happy are those who have no confidence in their own goodness,
Because Jesus came for them.

4    Blessed are those who mourn,
    For they shall be comforted.
Happy are those who sorrow over their heart that is bent toward evil,
Because Jesus will give them a new heart bent toward God.

5    Blessed are the meek,
    For they shall inherit the earth.
Happy are those whose strength is under control,
For God will put the earth under their control.

6    Blessed are those who hunger
    and thirst for righteousness,
    For they shall be filled.
Happy are those who desperately want their souls to be clean,
For Jesus will clean them as white as snow.

7    Blessed are the merciful,
    For they shall obtain mercy.
Happy are those who cancel the debts of others that the others’ cannot pay themselves,
For Jesus will cancel their debt to God that they cannot pay themselves.
8    Blessed are the pure in heart,
    For they shall see God.
Happy are those who have no evil desires,
For they will be able to see God working everywhere.

9    Blessed are the peacemakers,
    For they shall be called sons of God.
Happy are those who help brothers and sisters to find common ground, creative synergistic solutions and critical understanding of each other and of themselves,
For they will be named after the Most High.

10    Blessed are those who are 
    persecuted for righteousness’ sake,
    For theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Happy are those who are rejected for the purity of, and love in, their heart,
For Jesus is theirs.

11  “Blessed are you when they revile 
and persecute you, and say all kinds 
of evil against you falsely for My sake. 
12  Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, 
for great is your reward in heaven, 
for so they persecuted the prophets 
who were before you.
Happy are you when others hate you because you follow Jesus
and your godly character publicly exposes their own evil,
Jump for joy because a prophet’s reward is waiting for you in heaven.

Practice what I preach?

The Pharisees, religious and political leaders of Jesus time, failed to recognize Jesus as the Messiah their beloved Moses talked about.  This was because they did not believe or obey the Scripture they had memorized and talked about each Sabbath.  They were, as Jesus pointed out to them, hypocrites.

What does that mean for me?  It is easier to write about Jesus than it is to actually follow Him.  I get convicted while I type the words to some of these posts.  How much time do I spend in meaningful conversation each day with my wife? with each of my sons?  Do I give my best at church? at work?

I realize that I need to let Jesus order my world, let Him set the priorities and manage my schedule.  And I do that by obeying Him when He nudges me to set the computer aside and listen to my family.  Jesus will give me the time to write, that is not the problem.  The problem is that I not use my family’s time as writing time and crowd out what is more important.  My family, my church, and my work come first.  In that order.

I believe this struggle of priorities will be ongoing.  I also believe that by putting into practice what I already know to be true from the Bible, the way will get clearer, if not easier.  And by relying on the Holy Spirit, to guide and empower me, the end result will be the balance that God is looking for from me.

Please feel free to hold me accountable to this.

Nobody’s perfect

Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, And in sin my mother conceived me.   Behold, You desire truth in the inward parts, And in the hidden part You will make me to know wisdom.
Psalm 51:5-6 NKJV

Being truthful in my head is very hard.  I decide what I want because I want it. Then I pretend I really want it for another reason, a “good”, acceptable reason, a “righteous” reason.  I deceive myself, but almost no one else.  God wants me to tell the truth to myself.  If I read the Bible and see all the “good guys” as me and all the “bad guys” as someone else, I’m missing everything.  The Bible is a mirror to show me who I really am.

But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man observing his natural face in a mirror; for he observes himself, goes away, and immediately forgets what kind of man he was. But he who looks into the perfect law of liberty and continues in it, and is not a forgetful hearer but a doer of the work, this one will be blessed in what he does.
James 1:22-25 NKJV

Most of the Bible heroes were flawed!  Abraham lied and let another man take his wife to save his skin.  David got another man’s wife pregnant and then killed the man to cover it up.  Jacob’s name meant deceiver and he lived up to it.  Noah got drunk and exposed himself.  Moses was a murderer.  Peter, the “rock” of faith, denied Jesus and called down curses on himself to keep himself from suffering Jesus’ fate.  Paul ruthlessly murdered men, women and children who would not betray Jesus.

If God can work with a crowd like that, and turn them into role models for us, do you think He can work with someone like me? or you?  Well, not if I lie to myself and tell myself I’m really not so bad, and nobody’s perfect, and my good outweighs my bad, and who are you to talk and… and… and….

Jesus “redefined” sin so that no one would feel left out:

“You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder, and whoever murders will be in danger of the judgment.’  But I say to you that whoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment. And whoever says to his brother, ‘Raca!’ shall be in danger of the council. But whoever says, ‘You fool!’ shall be in danger of hell fire….“You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’  But I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.”  – Jesus, Matthew 5:21- 22, 27-28 NKJV

God desires truth in the inner parts.  Before Jesus can cleanse me of my sin I have to admit I have sin for Him to cleanse.  If I deny the true motives for my actions and cover it up with “righteous lies” Jesus can’t help me.  I have to be ruthlessly honest within myself.

Okay, so if I’m honest with myself, humble myself and agree with God that I have rebelled against Him, what do I get?

Peace with God.  And peace within myself.  And the ability to see and treat others differently.  More compassion, less judgement, less demands.  Jesus grants us forgiveness and grace (i.e. kindness we don’t deserve) and we can pass it along to those who hurt us.  We absorb the sting of their attacks, and we offer them kindness and understanding in return.  This isn’t natural, it’s supernatural.  It’s the work of the Holy Spirit who works through you as you allow Him to work through you.  This fulfills the second half of the verse: And in the hidden part You will make me to know wisdom.

To help with the process of confession you may want to ask someone you trust if you can tell them your sins as you confess them to God.  This takes guts and I haven’t done it much.  I will report back to you after I have talked with my accountability partner.

Pastor Dr. Charles F. Stanley observes, “Obedience always brings blessing”.  And Jesus said, “The truth will set you free”.  May God grant me and you the grace to always confess our sins, so that we can reap the blessings and freedom Jesus always wants to give us.