Estimated reading time: 4 minute(s)
God blesses those people
who want everyone to be treated right more than to eat or drink.
They will be given what they want!
Our family is reading through the book of Matthew together currently, and we came to chapter five today. Many may know that chapter five is where you find the words Jesus spoke which we commonly call “The Beatitudes.” (The fact that I did not know how to spell the word without the help of the spell checker should be a good clue that I do not refer to those words by that somewhat religious title.)
Many of us have read them a thousand times. “Blessed are the…” for “they will be…” They are upside-down, topsy-turvy, kingdom of God truth. They kind of make sense, and kind of don’t. Those who mourn are “blessed?” Those who are persecuted are blessed? God frequently reveals that truth (and reality) are not what we (in our wisdom) think they are.
But what caught my eye this time was what I quoted above.
First of all, we’re reading from a Bible that is called “The Promise.” It’s the Contemporary English Version, which has been nice in that the wording is closer to the way we would speak than some translations, however, we’ve noticed in the first five chapters that there is a bit of a religion “lean” to some of the words they chose to use. There are frequent “notes” that refer to alternate translation options for a word or a phrase, and often the “alternate” is either more the way we have heard it before, or seems to fit more with the context of the book and of the whole message of the new testament.
Matthew 5:6 is one example. You may have heard this verse before, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.” When you hear the word “righteousness,” what comes to mind? My mind is filled with images of personal piety and holiness, law keeping, and obedience to religious obligations and laws. That’s not really in line with the rest of what Jesus said… “Do your best, and if you’re really good—like, you want God’s perfect righteousness more than food or drink—then, and only then, you’ll be satisfied.”
Don’t think that’s on par with the rest of what I read.
However, if you go with the alternate translation, “God blesses those who want everyone to be treated right,” then you are a bit more in line with how Jesus lived and taught. Even old testament scriptures convey a similar message. Jesus summed it up in the words we call the “Golden Rule,” … “Treat other people the way you want to be treated.” (My paraphrase.) Basically, the true meaning of justice. Not revenge, eye-for-an-eye justice. But, wanting everyone to be treated right. Treated fairly.
So then I noticed the context. (It is always about the context!) Starting with the verse before, Jesus says: God blesses the humble, then those who want justice more than anything, then those who are merciful. Huh… sounds familiar…
“He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you but to do justly, and to love kindness and mercy, and to humble yourself and walk humbly with your God?”—Micah 6:8 (Amplified Version)
Or, in the words of Steven Curtis Chapman, “Do justly, love mercy, walk humbly with your God.” (From “The Walk” – Signs of Life – 1996.)
Wow. Look at that! Seems to fit with what God had said centuries earlier through Micah. And really, if you strip away the religious obligation and attempts to please the deity that accompany the word, “Righteousness” just means doing what is “right”, doesn’t it? So, rather than wanting personal, religious “righteousness” more than food or drink, Jesus said that Kingdom people hunger and thirst for justice—especially for others.
Sounds right to me.
Two thousand years of religious interpretation of Jesus’ words can be a tricky thing to get past sometimes. But when you strip it all away, it really is quite simple. And it really is good news.
Do justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with your God.