The Beautiful Attitudes

   Written by on May 25, 2017 at 9:50 am

logo-crotts-stephenPossibly the worst criticism anyone can level at us Christians is to say, “I’ve watched your life and you’re no different than the rest of the world! You’re just as greedy, malicious and full of lust as I am!”

Admittedly, sometimes coming to church is like tossing a pebble into a lake. The pebble gets nice and wet on the outside, but the water never penetrates to the inside. Similarly, it’s easy to come to church and allow the externals of the gospel to wash over our outer lives— how we dress, the cut of our hair, our speech, and so forth. But all the while our inner life remains locked up tightly against any penetration by the gospel. So our conscience, our spirit, our values and our attitudes remain unfazed by truth! And we have a religion of outward show, but it’s not life-changing.

Nowhere is the gospel’s lack of penetration more evident than in the Sermon on the Mount. Oliver Wendell Holmes wrote, “Most people are willing to take the Sermon on the Mount as a flag to sail under, but few will use it as a rudder by which to steer.”

We come now to the Beatitudes of Jesus, the first words of his most famous sermon. There are eight beatitudes in all. The first four deal with one’s relationship with God. The last four deal with one’s relationship with people. Let’s immerse ourselves in the first of these eight pronouncements of Jesus. Let’s open our inner attitudes to God’s beatitudes and find fulfillment in him.

Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 5:

First, it is imperative that we understand the formula in which Christ presented the Beatitudes. The traditional English Bible translation reads, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven!” But there is no “are” in the Greek original. A better translation is: “O the blessedness of the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven!” Thus the first beatitude is not a simple declarative sentence, but an exclamation. It is an exclamatory remark meant to be shouted with excitement! “O THE BLESSEDNESS OF THE POOR IN SPIRIT . . . !”

The word blessed is the word makarios in the Greek. It’s the same word used for the island of Cyprus in the Mediterranean. Cyprus is known as “the Happy Island.” It had it all in Christ’s day. The saying was that a person need not go beyond its coastline to find joy. So a fair translation of the first beatitude might be: “O the happiness of the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven!”

To us moderns, happiness means feeling fine. “The wife and I are getting along. The kids are behaving. My investments hit 12 percent last year. And it looks like I’ll get that promotion at work!” Do you see how we base our happiness on our circumstances? The trouble with such happiness is that it is so fragile. Why, 90 percent of my life can be going just fine, but 10 percent going poorly can destroy my mood.

This is not the sort of happiness Christ is talking about. The Lord’s blessedness or happiness is not what you feel, but what is. Not what is temporary, but what is eternal. Not what you think of our circumstances, but what God thinks.

The Hebrew word for blessed has a word picture behind it— that of a kneeling camel. The idea is that a camel kneels so it can be loaded with silks, spices, treasure and such, then gets up and joins a caravan taking its cargo to distant lands.

This is the picture in Psalm 68:19. “Blessed be the Lord who daily loadeth (or blesses) us with benefits.”

So the idea is that a camel is made to be “a ship of the desert.” To be blessed, then, is to be like a camel, to be doing that which God put us here to do.

Now, back to the first beatitude. “O the blessedness, of the happy islanders, O the loaded camels carrying treasure, O those happily fulfilled of God . . .” Thus our happiness in God is not a feeling but an abiding fulfillment, not what we think of our circumstances, but what God thinks.

That is the formula in which Jesus presented his beatitudes. Now, this: the first fulfilling attitude.

To be continued next week. . .

The Reverend Stephen Crotts is the director of the Carolina Study Center, Inc., a campus ministry, located in Chapel Hill, NC. Pastor Crotts may be reached at carolinastudycenter@msn.com.

About Stephen Crotts

The Reverend Stephen Crotts is pastor of Village Presbyterian Church in Charlotte Court House, VA. He is also the director of the Carolina Study Center, Inc., a campus ministry, located in Chapel Hill, NC. Pastor Crotts may be reached at carolinastudycenter@msn.com.

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