Focus,  Scripture

Scripture Studies: Matthew 5

Scripture Studies is a series where we look at what God has to say about our money, time, belongings, and focus. In other words, what does the Bible say about minimalism? Let’s find out.


Matthew 5

“And [Jesus] opened his mouth and taught them, saying:
‘Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
‘Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.
‘Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.
‘Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.
‘Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.
‘Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.
‘Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called [children] of God.
‘Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
‘Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.'”

(Matthew 5:2–12, ESV)

What does it say?

The poor, the mourning, the meek, the hungry, and the persecuted are not being punished. The flip side of that would be that the wealthy, the fortunate, the influential, the healthy, and the protected aren’t necessarily experiencing God’s blessing.

For the former, as well as for the merciful, the pure in heart, and the peacemakers, the reward will come. When we seek after God, God will meet us there. 

What does it mean?

“Up is down. Left is right.” That’s kind of what it sounded like as Jesus originally preached this famous passage, the Beatitudes. It took what the Jews of that day knew well, the Mosaic Law, and flipped it on its head.

They believed that if you do good, you will be rewarded favorably; if you do bad, you will be punished. This still seems like common sense even today, and yet what Jesus preached was uncommon sense.

This world is broken, so it doesn’t always function the way it’s meant to. Bad things can happen to the least deserving. Those who have enough may take more, while the needy turn desperate. Life isn’t fair.

This is Jesus saying, “I see you. God knows. He will make it right.” This world is temporary, and the imbalance won’t last forever. Keep your eyes focused on the One who is in control, rather than trying to keep score.

How does this apply to us?

Our common sense fails us when we decide where to put our values. What is success? What does fortunate look like? What does it mean to be blessed? If we think it applies in a worldly manner—the big salary, the nice house, the envy of our friends or followers, being well liked—we’ve got our eyes set on the temporary things that pass away. None of it will matter in the longterm.

The physical world only matters in the short term. So, everything we do here—the values we hold and the actions we take—should be filtered through the long-term, spiritual world.

God knows we have needs. It isn’t wrong to have a pretty house or to earn a decent income. But what do we DO with that money? How does that house serve God? Do we open its doors and welcome in the broken, or do we keep it to ourselves?

And if you don’t have enough, if your hands are often empty, God will meet you there. It isn’t a sign of punishment. Pain and grief are inevitable in this dysfunctional world, but God is not bound by this world. He can reach you through it.

Our family went through a period of about six years where making ends meet was a struggle. We were doing everything right. We cut all unnecessary spending, we faithfully tithed, we prayed constantly over the issue, we sought better jobs… and yet financially we continued to struggle. My only anchor through those years was the quiet, repetitive promise of “I will provide” that God kept whispering to me as I poured over scripture and prayed until I cried.

We still are not wealthy. We still have to be careful with our budget. But God kept meeting our needs in unconventional ways (donations of children’s clothes, a fridge that was falling apart but wouldn’t quit, my husband carpooling to work so we didn’t have to get a second car, etc.), and eventually God provided a job for my husband that brought us away from the poverty line.

In the hardest moments, I could find comfort in these verses. God knows our needs and will meet them, both physically and spiritually. So long as I have my eyes on Jesus, I don’t need to worry about why I haven’t attained the American dream of a big paycheck, a house with a picket fence, fancy clothes, or a nice car. None of that is my dream anymore. None of that matters in terms of forever.

Only Jesus does.

Prayer

Lord, open Your mouth and teach this weary heart of mine. Speak over me all the ways that I am blessed, in spite of my pain, because I’ve aligned my desires with Yours. Help me to see past the immediate gratifications of this world so that I can wait patiently for the day You set things right. It is too easy for me to be distracted by what’s here and now because it’s loud and in my face. Help me to hear Your gentle whisper of hope. Thank You for Your comfort and guidance. We praise Your holy name. Amen.


Photo: Artem Kovalev