Texts: Micah 6:1-8; 1 Corinthians 1:18-31; Matthew 5:1-12
None of these virtues are not the typical kinds of things that we aspire to, that will help us get ahead in life. It is the bold, the strong, the clever, the quick-witted who succeed. All too often, it is also the deceitful, the arrogant, the callous, and the brazen. The meek, the mournful, the pure-hearted, the peacemakers… these are the ones who are used, abused, walked over and discarded by the ambitious on their way to the top.
If these beatitudes are not about being successful, then perhaps they are about being saved; perhaps Jesus is telling us what we must be and do in order to enter the kingdom of heaven. It would certainly fit with Matthew’s theme; the first part of his gospel tells the story of his own call and the call of his disciples before he gathers them on this mountain to teach them about what it means to be disciples. Matthew sees Jesus as the New Moses—a child rescued from the murderous intentions of a frightened king, a Jew who came out of Egypt. In this scene Jesus, too, delivers the law from the top of a mountain.
That’s how many of us have been taught to read this text: not as beatitudes, declarations of blessing, but as “be-attitudes:” attitudes that we must be. With a text this familiar, it is hard to hear it any way but the way we’ve always heard it. We listen to Jesus naming off blessings, and we try to compare ourselves to his list: “Am I meek? Am I pure in heart? Am I a peacemaker?”