The Happy ChristianMatthew 5:3-12Theme: Blessedness.This week’s lessons point us to Jesus who is the fountain of all happiness.
LessonThere is a special promise to those who are meek by which they may count themselves blessed: they shall “inherit the earth.” The world may think such souls fit only for the kingdom of God, like the Emperor Julian who wrote mockingly that he only confiscated the property of Christians to make them poor enough to enter heaven. But Jesus does not say that they will inherit heaven, though they will. He says that they will inherit this earth, while those who currently possess it (he implies) will lose it all. How do they possess it? They possess it as the gospel spreads through preaching and God’s kingdom comes. In the ultimate sense the meek will possess the earth when Christ returns, renews its face, and subdues all things to himself forever. In that day the saints will reign with him.
“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness.” In my study I have a book by Walter Trobisch, a German missionary to West Africa, entitled, Living with Unfulfilled Desires. It is about adolescence and the postponed fulfillment of sexual desires that our Western way of life imposes on the young. This title might well apply to Western life in general. Only for most people these unfulfilled desires do not remain unfulfilled for long. Sexual desires are immediately gratified, or at least they are gratified whenever and wherever possible. Our culture tells us that we have a right to what we want and should seize it immediately. To use a biblical image, our culture encourages not a disciplined control of our desires but a hunger and thirst for everything – for everything but righteousness, since it is the one thing that is most perceived to stand in the way of the fulfillment of our other wants.
Yet Jesus says this is the way to happiness. The pathway of sin promises fulfillment; it promises to lead us through Elysian fields of happiness. It actually dead-ends in the “slough of despond.” The path of righteousness seems hard, but it leads to true contentment. David knew that and wrote, “You have made known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand” (Ps. 16:11).
“Blessed are the merciful.” Each of the beatitudes describes the character of the person who is following Christ, but there is a progression. The first three characteristics – poverty of spirit, mourning for sin, and meekness before God – show how one must approach God in order to find true happiness. The fourth beatitude, the central and chief one, shows the fulfillment of the most important of all desires, the desire for righteousness, by Christ. At this point, the beatitudes turn from the approach and fulfillment to the fruit, showing the transformed character of the one who has been touched by Christ’s spirit and is now being transformed into his image. They speak of mercy, purity, and a working disposition for peace.
Mercy is the first characteristic. It may be defined as grace in action. It is love reaching out to those who actually deserve God’s judgment. This is a characteristic of God and it is most clearly seen at Christ’s cross.
The promise to those who show mercy is that they will find mercy. Indeed, they have already found it and are blessed thereby.
“Blessed are the pure in heart.” There was a time in Western culture when purity was valued, at least verbally. No longer! Today purity is considered foolish, puritanical, or unsophisticated. Virginity is despised. Honesty is considered passé. Are we happier for this new, liberated morality? We may say so, but the anxiety, grief, and frustration of our contemporary society belies the profession. Jesus said that the way to happiness is by purity, and it is easy to see why. Sin produces turmoil. Isaiah wrote, “But the wicked are like the tossing sea, which cannot rest, whose waves cast up mire and mud. ‘There is no peace,’ says my God, ‘for the wicked’ ” (Is. 57:20-21). God gives peace to those who seek purity. The promise of this beatitude is that at the last they shall see him.
Study Questions

How do believers “inherit” the earth?
How does our culture approach the pursuit of happiness? How does this stand in contrast to the biblical approach to personal fulfillment?
What does each of the beatitudes actually describe?
How do the first three beatitudes differ from the others?
Why do you think the fourth beatitude is the central one?
Why does purity lead to peace?

ReflectionMeditate on Psalm 16. As you do, pray for a mindset like David’s.

Study Questions
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