– A Devotional From Pastor Ilagan
(Matt. 5:1-12; Luke 6:20-23)
I have a pastor-friend who tells me that whenever someone greets him with the usual “How are you?” his response is: “I am blessed! Thank you!”
The response sounds “too religious” to me. I would not feel comfortable saying it in reply to the casual greetings that normally happen between persons. But knowing this pastor-friend, I believe that his intent is not to show his religiosity; it is an honest response from his heart, And perhaps it is an attempt to “engage” the person a little deeper than the perfunctory verbal exchange that follows “How are you?”
When Jesus went about teaching, preaching, healing the sick, and driving out evil spirits the people flocked to Him and followed Him wherever He went. Jesus knew their needs and one day he sat down and “engaged” them. He preached to them what we call the “Beatitudes”.
“Beatitude” means a state of blessedness; a condition of being in God’s grace or favor. However, in reading the Beatitudes we may fall into what David Lose, pastor and author calls a “trap”; i.e. a misunderstanding that Jesus is setting up the “requirements” needed to receive certain blessings from God.
This misunderstanding tends to fit right into and is reinforced by our life experiences. Before we can receive a benefit, we know we first have to work for it; there is no such thing as a free lunch.
For example when we read Matthew 5:5 “Blessed are the meek for they will inherit the earth” we ask ourselves whether we have a meek attitude; whether we have worked enough on our pride so that we can call ourselves “meek”. And if we think we have failed in that effort we conclude that we do not deserve to receive the blessing of inheriting the earth. And so we check another Beatitude, look at its “requirement” and see if it is a better “fit” for us.
But this is not what Jesus was saying. He saw the crowds — and “saw” not just their obvious needs but the needs of their hearts. He saw their grief, their poverty, their thirst for righteousness, their desire to see God and God’s mercy. Jesus wanted to offer them His grace and favor.
This is what Jesus does for us today – offering His grace and favor – not for us to work and earn them but only to receive them with grateful hearts. This is what the Beatitudes is about.
Dear Father, thank You for the unconditional love, grace and favor You give upon us through Christ. Amen.
Emmanuel N. ILAGAN