Seeking the Praise of God or Men

Matthew 6:1-18

by Paul George

The subject matter in these verses focuses on giving, praying and fasting. The initial reading of the passage will show that the basic teaching of Jesus will be to avoid the seeking the praise of men and to seek to please God.

The first four verses cover the subject of “almsgiving” or giving to the poor. The general warning is not to do acts of righteousness before other people, to be seen by them, for then there will be no reward. There are times when it is necessary to do good deeds publicly. However, Jesus was speaking about intention, not to do them so that people would see and therefore think that you are spiritual. That is one form of hypocrisy, for in doing it that way you would not be seriously interested in doing the good deed, but in appearing to be doing good deeds. The motivation would be primarily self-promoting and the Lord always looks at the motives when He evaluates our works.

There is a trend today, especially in affluent societies, to let this one go. The thinking may be that the poor are just lazy and should work harder, or that it is the government’s responsibility to help them, or that it is a never-ending task and so it will not do much good anyway, and so on. There are many reasons people can come up with to avoid this spiritual duty. Prosperity theology fits into the reasoning as well, teaching that if people had faith they would have wealth, because God wants His children to be rich. What is most disturbing is to see the wealthy and the successful promoted on Christian talk shows on television or on stage in services as if they were the spiritual ones, blessed by God. Jesus said that when people give money to the poor they should not “sound the trumpet” as the hypocrites do in order to be recognized and honored by others (6:2-4). There are a number of ideas about the meaning of “sounding the trumpet” but the point is clear that the hypocritical almsgiver was more concerned about being noticed for his deed than for helping the poor. Jesus said we are not to do this. Those who do this would receive no reward from God, because their almsgiving was motivated by seeking the praise of men. Jesus calls those who seek the praise of men in their almsgiving, it is all a show of spirituality, but it is not genuine. Many people will give to the poor, but they thrive on the praise of people who perceive them to be generous and spiritual. Jesus was saying that if you give to the poor in order to receive this acclaim, then that is all the reward you will receive.

The subject of rewards is a difficult subject. The Bible warns people not to do good deeds for the praise and honor you would get from other people; and on the other hand, it instructs people to run the race for the reward. There is nothing wrong with doing a righteous deed for the sake of receiving a reward, or praise, as long as the praise you seek is of God. In the Bible, when we are instructed to do acts of righteousness there is always a mention of reward from the Father in heaven. There has to be a motivation for the righteous deeds and our chief motivation is to please God. How will we know if we have pleased God? By His “Well done, good and faithful servant.” This is very different from doing something so that others in the church will praise you or think more highly of you than they should.

Jesus said that when you give to the poor do it in a way that is secret, without the public notice and acclaim, and without the poor knowing it was you who gave. If God is the motivator of our good deeds, what people will think about us or what debt of gratitude they feel they owe us has no value.

The second point in Jesus’ instructions to the disciples is prayer. He told the disciples, the hypocrites “love to stand and pray in the synagogues and on the street corners so that they may be seen by men.”  Jesus was describing someone who may or may not be sincerely praying, but certainly wants everyone to know he prays. Jesus was not ruling out public prayer; rather, He was criticizing the motivation of the hypocrite. Once again, Jesus was denouncing any religious act that is inspired by the opinions of people. In his denouncement He used sarcasm again: “They have their reward.”

There were two principle errors in the scribes and Pharisees posture of prayer, seeking the praise of men (v 5) and meaningless petitions (v 7). The places where they prayed, in the synagogues, which was the proper place for public prayer, but not for personal, and the corners of the streets. The purpose in praying on the corners of the street was to give the impression of their devotion to keeping the appointed hours for prayer; the real purpose was to seek the praise of men

Praying in these public places revealed two things about the attitude of the scribes and Pharisees, first, they did not love prayer for its own sake, but they loved it when it gave them an opportunity of making themselves noticed. Second, they used prayer to seek the praise of men and not acceptance by God.

If we seek the approval of God when we pray we must ignore the praise of men because we do not pray to men expecting an answer, when we pray our eyes must be focused on God and not self or our fellowman. A story comes to mind of an elderly, quiet woman when asked to pray, after a few moments of silence she said “amen.” After the service, one of her friends told her she could not hear what she prayed. The woman answered, “if I was praying to you, you would have heard my pray, I was praying to the Lord.” When we pray what passes between God and our own souls must be out of sight. Public places are not the proper places for private solemn prayer. In His instructions to the disciples Jesus was not condemning public prayer. Public prayer has its place in the worship service.

Jesus told the disciples, instead of praying in public places pray in a private place. Jesus often went alone to the mountains and prayed. Peter went to a housetop to pray. The private place of prayer is a place where we can pray and not be seen, interrupted, disturbed, distracted and heard. The private place of prayer is the place where we have the freedom to pray we that do not have in the public place. In the private place of prayer, we can share with God the deepest desires of our hearts.

The second thing Jesus told the disciples to avoid was meaningless repetitions (v 7).

Jesus was not speaking against long prayers or repetition in prayers He was talking about trying to manipulate God through long and repetitious prayers. God does not need endless detailed information. Jesus said to avoid these practices, “Your Father knows what you need before you ask him.”

In his letter to the Thessalonians the apostle Paul told them, “pray without ceasing” (1 Thessalonians 5:17).  How would that teaching harmonize with Jesus’ warning not to think long repetitions prayers will break through to God. “Pray without ceasing” is not meant to be taken literally, or we would do absolutely nothing in life but pray. However, it is meant to be taken literally in the sense that prayer should be a continuous, never-ending discipline of the spiritual life. It should be like a natural reflex, every time the Christian encounters a need, a problem, a person in trouble, a situation in the world, prayer should be made, and prayer should be the natural communication between the Christian and the Father in heaven, on every issue in life. Prayer is the pouring out of the heart to our heavenly Father.

In verse nine, Jesus tells the disciples to pray in this way,

“Our Father who is in heaven,
Hallowed be Your name.
Your kingdom come
Your will be done,
On earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.
And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For Yours is the kingdom
and the power and the glory forever. Amen.”

We are to pray to our Father who is in heaven and not to saints and angels, for they are ignorant of us and are not to have the high honors that belong to our heavenly Father. Men call God their Father because He is a common Father to all humanity by creation, (Malachi 2:10, Acts 17:28). Christians call God Father because we are His children by adoption and regeneration (Ephesians 1:5; Galatians 4:6). There is nothing more pleasing to God when we call Him, Father.

We often refer to this prayer as the Lord’s Prayer. This prayer is the disciple’s prayer, a prayer given by the Lord to the disciples. The prayer has an opening address and then six requests, the first three requests are for God’s glory, and the next three for our good, and ultimately His glory.

The address, “Our Father who is in heaven”, is clearly intended for us, the disciples and believers, for Jesus always called the Father “My Father” or “the Father” apart from this instruction on prayer. There is therefore a great difference in the use of the word “Father” for us, as opposed to the use by Jesus. When Jesus refers to “the Father,” or “My Father,” He can claim a special and unique relationship, for He shares the nature of the Father. When we use the word “Father,” it is a reminder that through Jesus we are brought into the family of God by adoption, and made joint-heirs with Jesus Christ, the true Son.

The modern attempt to undermine the language ignores what the word “father” meant in the Hebrew culture. It clearly emphasizes the biblical teachings that God is the creator, the sovereign head of all creation, the provider of all life, the great benefactor, and the covenant-making God. The fact that Jesus taught us to address God this way has to be taken seriously. We all substitute words for God when we pray, Lord, Everlasting God, God of all comfort, and so on, and so that is not a problem. However, some substitutions would be a problem if they give the wrong impression of God’s nature. To address God as Father in heaven is to emphasize the transcendence of God. God is not of the earth earthly or of our world physical. God is in heaven. Thus, “Father” is clearly an intended metaphor; God is not like any human father, but is perfect, heavenly, exalted. Referring to God in heaven as “our Father” emphasizes that God is immanent as well. We are related to God; God is near and approachable.

Heaven is a place of perfect purity. From heaven, God beholds the children of men and He has a full and clear view of all our wants, burdens, desires, and all our infirmities. God is not only a Father, able to help us, able to do great things for us, more than we can ask or think; He has the ability to supply our needs. He is a Father; therefore, we may come to Him with boldness, but with reverence. All our prayers should conform to that which is our great aim as Christians, and that is, to be with God in heaven.

“Hallowed be Your name, in these words, we give glory to God, for God’s holiness is the greatness and glory of all his perfections. We begin our prayers with praising God, and it is fitting that we should give glory to God, before we expect to receive mercy and grace from Him. Let Him have praise for His perfections, and then let us have the benefit of them. Since all is of Him and through Him, all must be to Him and for Him. The Pharisees made their own name the chief end of their prayers, “to be seen of men” (v 5) in direct opposition we are directed to make the name of God our chief end; let all our petitions center in this and be regulated by it.

In Ezekiel 36, the word of the Lord said that the Israelites had profaned the name of the Lord everywhere they went. Now that they were in captivity, God’s word was in question, and His ability to save challenged. Therefore, the Lord declared that He would restore them to the land, not because they deserved it, but because His reputation was at stake, it would be “for His name’s sake.” By sin people have interfered with God’s program; and the faith has been made to look ineffectual, and God, common. However, God will not leave it there. Therefore, to pray “Hallowed be your name” is to pray that God will act to fulfill all His word so that everyone will know that he is different from everyone else, that He is the holy Lord God.

The request, “Your kingdom come” logically follows “Hallowed be Your name”, for when the kingdom fully comes God will be seen as the one whose word can be trusted. Therefore, this request ultimately looks forward to the consummation of the age.
It is true that the kingdom of our Lord has begun, and that all of us who are believers are already in the kingdom, and that the Lord Christ is seated on the right hand of the Majesty on High. However, all of that is but the beginning, for the kingdom has not yet fully come. The Lord is not yet ruling over the whole world in righteousness and peace. Sin still abounds. There will come a time when the Father will say to the Son, “Ask of me and I will give you the nations for your inheritance” (Psalm 2). Then He will bring the Messiah into the world for the second time (Hebrews 1:6), not in shame and sacrifice, but in glory. Therefore, the prayer here is actually a request for the second coming, and all that will come with it.

The third request, “Your will be done on earth, as it is in heaven”, is a request  that God would bring about His righteous demands in history as fully as they are realized in heaven. The simple fact is that God’s will is not being done on earth, apart from pockets of obedience here and there from time to time. We pray for, and eagerly look forward to, the time that Christ shall put down the last of the enemies. However, until then we must endure a world where sin, disease, and death reign.

This request should remind us that we should be doing the will of God that we are praying for otherwise it is hypocrisy. It is true of many prayers that those who pray become part of the answer to the prayer. This principle is true of all these first three requests. As we ask for major changes in the world for God’s glory, all the requests are actually applicable in this way for us. We as God’s people are to act in such a way as to hallow His name, submit to His rule, and do His will.

The fourth request, “Give us this day our daily bread.” The last three requests are for the good of the people while they await the consummation of the ages. The first request focuses on God’s meeting our daily needs, not what we want. The use of the word “bread” is, of course, a figure of speech, meaning the basic food we need.

So why do we need to pray this, when we have a steady income and there is always food in the house? Praying give us our daily bread is a humble request, designed to ensure that an attitude of faith and reliance on God will be kept in mind day by day. It is when we gain abundance so that we have far more than we ever need that we forget about depending on God each day for our livelihood. Moses warned the people not to forget the Lord when they are settled, comfortable, and well off in the Promised Land (Deuteronomy 8). This request is for God to provide our daily sustenance while we travel through this temporary life.

The fifth request, “And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.” This request recognizes that every one of us owes a debt to God for sin and its consequences, and that it is essential to be forgiven. Our hearts’ desire and prayer to our heavenly Father every day should be, that He would forgive us our debts that we may not come into condemnation.

“As we forgive our debtors.” this is not a plea of merit, but a plea of grace. Those that come to God for the forgiveness of their sins against Him must forgive those who have offended them. This is not a reference to money, it is a reference injury. Our debtors are those whose persecution we must bear, forgive, and forget the wrongs done us; and this is a moral qualification for pardon and peace; it encourages us to hope, that God will forgive us.

To forgive others is the natural response of one who knows and understands forgiveness; to refuse to forgive others does not. One who does not forgive others has an arrogant attitude, which is not representative of someone who acknowledges the need for forgiveness we all share. It is like playing God. Jesus seems to be saying that there is no forgiveness for one who is unforgiving, that person is self-righteous and apparently does not exhibit a need for forgiveness. However, when we ask the Lord to forgive us, we should be so thankful for his forgiveness that we share in that spirit in our dealings with other people.

This request, then, is concerned with our inter-relationships, with our community life as confessing believers. Jesus further explains it in verses 14 and 15, which indicates how seriously He intended us to take forgiving each other. However, we must admit that we surely do fail in this area. None of us would want God to forgive us the way that we in the church forgive one another. However, our asking God for forgiveness should make us think again, of how we forgive others.

The last request, is concerned with our conflict with evil, “and do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from evil.” The idea seems not to be “temptation” in the immediate sense, for the Bible says that God does not tempt anyone to evil. Therefore, that would be an unnecessary prayer. It probably should have as its primary rendering “lead us not into testing/trial.” If we pray that God lead us not into testing, we would be praying that He not do something that Scripture says that He frequently does. A good illustration is in the wilderness, when the Lord led the people to bitter water to test them (Exodus 15). There they murmured against the Lord, a sin. God led them to the test; their response to the test that was sinful. Therefore, there is a fine line between the two. However, no one can say God made me sin, or led me into temptation; but we can say that God puts us into situations to prove our faith.

Jesus is probably intending for us to pray that God not lead us into a place of trials that would be so severe to bring about a fall into sin. The final clause shows that the ultimate desire is victory over evil in this world: “deliver us from evil,” or more likely, “the evil one.” Satan often waits in the times of trial for his opportunity, and to fail to demonstrate faith in a time of testing would be to succumb to the evil one. Nevertheless, the focus of the prayer is for spiritual victory over all evil in the world.

The third section now concerns fasting. First, there is a warning of what not to do, instructions of what to do and the promise of a reward.

Jesus here criticized the hypocritical acts of disfiguring the face for a public show, to be seen by others as one who fasts and therefore who must be spiritual (6:16). This is perhaps the biggest hypocrisy, because fasting was a sign of humility before God, not an occasion for self-promotion.

Fasting had a distinct purpose in Israel. It was a way of saying “no” to the physical and material needs of the body and giving all the attention to spiritual matters. It was a way of saying that this time of prayer, or this time of repentance, is the most important thing in life. The Law commanded Israel to fast at the Day of Atonement (Leviticus 16:29-31; 23:27-32; Numbers 29:7); and after the exile other fasts were added (Zechariah 7:3; 8:19). However, people could fast and pray anytime there was a need. An individual could fast at any time that some special petition was offered. Jesus Himself was in the wilderness for forty days, fasting and praying.

To proclaim a fast without any concern for changing the life as a whole missed the point. People cannot think that by fasting for one day, or for one month, they have put things back into balance. The fasting is supposed to have a lasting impact for righteousness. Fasting is not a common part of worship in most churches today, which is perhaps a pity, for if it were understood and done correctly it would be spiritually beneficial.

Jesus told the disciples, “Whenever you fast, do not put on a gloomy face as the hypocrites do, for they neglect their appearance so that they will be noticed by men when they are fasting.” Jesus told the disciples when they fast they wash their faces so that people will not see they are fasting. Only God will see, and He will reward the act as a righteous act.
The lesson taught in chapter 6 verses 1-18 reveals how much of our religious conduct is regulated by the opinions and approval of other people. It is not our task to appear to be righteous before other people. Rather, it is our task to be well pleasing to the Lord. If we seek the praise of men, then whatever enjoyment we derive from that will be all the reward there is. However, what we do to please God, even if our religious conduct is unknown to men it will be praised and rewarded in the courts of heaven.

This is why the Disciple’s Prayer is such an important part of this passage. In praying such a prayer, we are seeking to know and do the will of the Father in heaven, with that theme as our daily prayer, our understanding of and motivation for praying, and fasting, and giving to the poor, will reach a higher level. We must seek to do the will of God daily.

Be a Peacemaker

Matthew 5:9

by Paul George

This seventh Beatitude has to do more with conduct than with character. The first four may be grouped together as the negative character of the heart of the godly. They are not self-sufficient, but consciously poor in spirit; they are not self-satisfied, but mourning because of their spiritual state; they are not self-willed, but meek; they are not self-righteous, but hungering and thirsting after righteousness. In the next three, the Lord names their positive character, having tasted of the mercy of God, they are merciful in their dealings with others; having received a spiritual nature, they now hate impurity and love holiness; having entered into a peace with God they now wish to live in harmony and peace with all mankind.
In a world where there is no strife there is no need for peacemakers. Where the world is filled with malice and envy, hateful and hating one another” (Titus 3:3): though attempts are often made to conceal this by the cloak of hypocrisy yet it soon comes forth again in its hideous nakedness, as the history of the nations attests, peacemakers are needed.

The desire of peacemakers is to live peaceably with all men and abstain from deliberate injury of others, promote unity and heal broken relationships. Peacemakers pour sooth oil on troubled waters, reconcile those who are alienated, right wrongs, and strengthen the kindly ties of friendship. As the sons of peace they bring into the hostile atmosphere of this world the pure and calming air of heaven.

The disposition of the peacemakers is a vastly different disposition of the easy-going indolence which is often nothing but selfishness, of the wicked of this world. The peace they desire to establish is not a peace at any price. It is a peace that is not to be sought at the expense of righteousness. It is a peace God Himself approves of. In this life we are to avoid all needless contention, to the point of sacrificing the truth.
It is the duty of every Christian to see to it that we conduct ourselves in such a way no just complaint can be filed against us. It is also for our own peace we do this because it is impossible to be happy when we are involved in strife and enmities. When disturbance and turmoil is aroused, we should diligently examine ourselves before the Lord as to whether the cause for it lies in us and if it does confess the sin to Him and seek to reconcile those offended. Peacemakers must constantly be on their guard against an invasion by the spirit of bigotry, intemperate zeal, and a quarrelsome spirit and keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Ephesians 4:3).

In order to develop a peaceful disposition we must first cultivate the grace of “lowliness,” which is the opposite of pride, of meekness, which is the opposite of self-assertiveness, and the grace of long sufferance, which is the opposite of impatience. We are not only to do all we can to heal broken relationships we are to reconcile men to God. This is a contrast in the task given to Joshua and his officers under the Mosaic economy, of taking up the sword to slay the enemies of the Lord! In this age the servants of Christ are commissioned to seek the reconciliation of those who are at enmity with God.

Peacemakers are the ambassadors of God, calling sinners to come to God, throw down the weapons of their warfare and enter into peace with God. They know there is no peace for the wicked, and therefore they exhort them to make peace with God.

There is still another way in which it is the privilege of believers to be peacemakers, and that is by their prayers. In the day when the Lord’s anger is kindled against a sin-laden people and the dark clouds of providence threaten an impending storm of judgment, it is both the duty and the privilege of God’s peacemakers to stand in the breach and in earnest supplication plead with God to withhold His judgment as Moses did (Exodus 32:10), Aaron did (Numbers 16:47, 48), and David did (2 Samuel 24:14). This is indeed a blessed work of peace: to intercede as Abraham did for Sodom. Only in the Day to come will we know what the wicked gained by the presence of the righteous remnant in their midst.
The reward for being peacemakers is decisive proof that these Beatitudes are not directed toward the moral virtues of the natural man, but rather the spiritual graces of the regenerate. To be called a child of God is to be renewed in His image and likeness and to be a peacemaker. The Lord Himself is “the God of peace” (Hebrews 13:20), and where this peaceful disposition is manifested by His people He owns them as His children. Furthermore, peacemakers are recognized as children of God by their spiritual brothers. Ultimately, God will make it manifest to the entire universe that we are His children (Rom. 8:19).

The Christian life is one that is full of strange paradoxes which are not understood by human reason, but which are easily understood by the spiritual mind. God’s children rejoice with joy unspeakable, yet they mourn with a lamentation the children of wrath don’t understand. They rejoice because they have been brought into contact with a source of satisfaction which is capable of meeting every longing, yet they pant with a yearning for righteousness like that of the thirsty deer. They sing songs in their heart to the Lord, yet groan deeply and daily over the lost condition of the ungodly. Their life is often filled with pain yet they would not part with it for all the gold in the world. These puzzling paradoxes are among the evidences which they possess that they are indeed blessed of God. But who by mere reasoning would ever conclude that the persecuted and reviled are “blessed”! They are not compatible with the world’s idea of blessed but are actually a manifestation of the miseries of life.
The reason why the children of God are persecuted, reviled, and have all manner of evil said of them is the wicked of this world hate justice and love those who defraud and wrong their neighbors. They hate righteousness. If the children of God would cease walking humbly with God, they might go through the world, not only in peace, but with applause. Because they refuse to cease their walking humbly with God they suffer persecution because their life reveals the ungodliness of men and this provokes their resentment. The wicked in this world hate God and those who bear His image.

The blessed in this world are those the world detests. Although those the world detests are persecution it is really a blessing in disguise. The opposition the child of God encounters in this world enables them to be aware of their own infirmities and needs. They are made aware of the fact they cannot stand for a single hour unless Divine grace upholds them. By persecution they are often kept from certain sins into which they would most likely fall were the wicked at peace with them. Persecution affords the believer an opportunity to glorify God by his constancy, courage, and fidelity to the truth.

This persecution “for righteousness’ sake” calls upon us to honestly examine ourselves before God when we are being opposed: “But let none of you suffer as a murderer, or as a thief, or as an evildoer, or as a busybody in other men’s matters” (1 Peter 4:15). The same qualification is made in the verse which immediately follows the last quoted: “Yet if any man suffer as a Christian, let him not be ashamed; but let him glorify God on this behalf”: this is a most necessary caution, that the believer see to it that he is suffering for doing what is right and not on account of his own misconduct or foolish behavior.

Jesus warns His servants what they may expect to encounter, and then defines how they are to respond. The glory worldly leaders value and crave is flattery and honor, but the glory the disciple of Jesus crave is conformity to Jesus who was “despised and rejected of men.” Instead of being downcast over and murmuring at the hostility they meet with in this world, they are to be thankful to God for the high honor He confers upon them in making them partakers of the sufferings of His Son.

The Lord Jesus pronounced blessed or happiness on those who, through devotion to Him, would be called upon to suffer. They are “blessed” because such are given the unspeakable privilege of having fellowship with the sufferings of the Savior. They are “blessed” because such tribulation works patience, and patience experience, and experience hope, a hope that will not make ashamed. They are “blessed” because they shall be fully recompensed in the Day to come. The child of God must not be dismayed because the fiery darts of the wicked are hurled against him. We must remember that “The sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us” (Romans 8:18).

The afflictions which come upon the children of God for their faithfulness are to be endured not only with patience and resignation, but thanksgiving and gladness because they come upon them for Christ’s sake. He suffered so they must and they should rejoice to suffer a little for Him. Because they shall be richly recompensed, great is their reward in heaven. These are a reason to rejoice, no matter how fierce the conflict may be.

A Message From the King

Matthew 5:1 – 7:28

Matthew chapters 5, 6, 7 are the longest and fullest continued discourse of our Savior that we have in all the gospels. The many miraculous cures wrought by Jesus in Galilee were intended to make way for this sermon and to prepare the people to receive instructions from One in whom there appeared to be a divine power and goodness. These chapters are probably a summary of what Jesus had preached in the synagogues of Galilee.
The sermon is preached on a mountain in Galilee. As in other things our Lord Jesus had no convenient place to preach or lay His head. While the scribes and Pharisees had Moses’ chair to sit in, with all possible ease, honor, and state, and there corrupted the law; our Lord Jesus, the great Teacher of truth, is out on a mountain side seated on a hard rock or the stump of a tree. The sermon is an exposition of the law given to Moses upon a mountain. The difference is when the law was given the Lord came down upon the mountain, now the Lord goes up on a mountain. On Mount Sinai He spoke with thunder and lightning. On this mountain in Galilee there is no thunder or lightning. When the law was given to Moses the people were told to keep their distance; now they are invited to draw near. To this mountain we are called to learn to offer the sacrifices of righteousness.

The Sermon on the Mount does not present the way of salvation but the way of righteous living for those who are in the family of God. It is a contrast between the new way with the old way of the scribes and the Pharisees. A comparison between the letter of the law and the spirit of the law. It is for the benefit of the disciples of Jesus because they are to teach others and it is necessary that they have a clear and distinct knowledge of these things. Although this discourse was directed to the disciples, it was in the hearing of a multitude. On this mountain in Galilee no bounds were set about it to keep the people off it as it was about Mount Sinai (Exodus 19:12). The good news is through Jesus we have access to God, not only to speak to Him, but to hear from Him.

When Jesus had placed himself so as to be best heard He taught the disciples and the people according to the promise in Isaiah 54:13. He begins His sermon with blessings because He came into this world to bless us as the great High Priest of our profession. In Him all the families of the earth are blessed. He came not only to purchase salvation for us, but to pour out and pronounce blessings on us; and in this sermon He does it as one having authority, as one that can command the blessing that have been promised to the believers.

The Old Testament ended with a curse (Malachi 4:6), the gospel begins with blessings and each of the blessings has a double intention. They identify those who are to be accounted truly happy, and what their characters are. This is designed to rectify the ruinous mistakes of a blind and carnal world. Happiness is the thing which men pretend to pursue. But most mistake the end, and form a wrong conclusion and then wonder why they missed what true happiness is. As well as the general opinion the happy are the strong and rich, the great and honorable men and women in the world. In the Sermon on the Mount our Lord Jesus corrects this error and advances a new way of life. He gives us a different idea of happiness and happy people, which, however paradoxical it may appear it is in itself a rule and doctrine of eternal truth and certainty, by which we must shortly be judged. The sermon is designed to remove the discouragements of the weak and poor who receive the gospel, by assuring them that His gospel does not make only those that are widely known and honored for the gifts, graces, and comforts they have received, but that even the least in the kingdom of heaven whose heart is right in the sight of God can find happiness in the kingdom of heaven.

In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus tells us what God expects from us, and what we may expect from Him. No where in the Bible is this more fully set before us and in fewer words than in this sermon or a more exact reference to what God expects from us and what we may expect from Him. This is the good news which we are required to believe and conform to. The highway to happiness is here opened and it comes from the mouth of Jesus Christ.

In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus gives us eight characteristics of the blessed and truly happy in this world, their inner qualities, and their future blessings. The inner qualities of the blessed contradict the proud thinking of the scribes and Pharisees who believe they can attain righteousness through their good deeds and their relationship with Abraham. Jesus points out this error in their thinking when He tells us righteousness, blessings, and happiness are not through good deeds or a relationship with Abraham, but through a relationship with Him.

In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus reveals the secret which is hidden from the ungodly and unrighteous who believe the comforts and luxuries of this world are indispensable. He strikes at the root of the carnal conceit of the Jews, who vainly believed external peace and prosperity were to be the result of the coming of the promised Messiah.

The poor in spirit are blessed not because they are poor but because theirs is the kingdom of heaven. The ungodly and unrighteous of this world claim it is the rich who are the blessed and happy people for theirs is the kingdoms of the world. What they don’t understand the kingdoms of the world are fading away. The kingdom of heaven is eternal, it will never fade away. Jesus says it is the poor in spirit for theirs is the kingdom of heaven, a kingdom far greater than all the kingdoms of the earth.
When we compare what Jesus said about the happy people in this world we need to remember there is a vast difference between being poor in the spirit and financial poverty. There is no virtue and often disgrace in financial poverty. Financial poverty doesn’t produce humility of heart. This poverty of the spirit Jesus speaks of is not generally found in the majority of the religionists. We often read and hear the about a conference for “promoting the higher life,” but who ever heard of one promoting the lowly life? Many books are written telling us how to be “filled with the Spirit,” but where can we find one telling us what it means to be emptied of self-confidence, self-importance, and self-righteousness? Jesus said, “That which is highly esteemed among men is detestable in the sight of God” (Luke 16:15), it is equally true what is of great price in His sight is despised by men. Almost all of the so-called “ministry” of this generation feeds pride, instead of starving the flesh; puffs up, rather than abases; and anything which is calculated to search and strip is frowned upon by the pulpit and is unpopular with the pew.

Spiritual poverty is the opposite of the proud, self-assertive and self-sufficient disposition which the world admires and praises. It is opposite of the independent and defiant attitude of men and women who refuse to bow to God, who say “Who is the Lord that I should obey His voice?”

The poor in spirit have arrived at the point in life were they know they have nothing, are nothing, and can do nothing in themselves, and have need of all things. Poverty of spirit is a consciousness of their emptiness, the result of the Spirit’s work within. All their righteousness as filthy rags, their best deeds are unacceptable, an abomination to God. Poverty of spirit brings us to our knees before God, acknowledging our utter helplessness and deserving the judgments of God. It corresponds to the initial awakening of the prodigal in the far country.

Poverty in spirit is realizing God’s great salvation is free, “without money and without price,” the most merciful provision of God’s grace. If God put a for sale tag on His grace and salvation no sinner could purchase them because he has nothing with which he could possibly purchase them. Most people don’t understand it is the Holy Spirit who opens the eyes of the sin blinded. It is those who have passed from death unto life who become conscious of their spiritual poverty, take the place of beggars and are glad to receive Divine charity, and begin to seek the true riches. Poverty of spirit is the realization of our utter worthlessness which precedes the laying hold of Christ. It is the Spirit emptying the heart of self that Jesus may fill it: it is a sense of need and destitution.
The one who is poor in spirit is nothing in his own eyes, and feels that his proper place is in the dust before God. He may, through false teaching or worldliness, leave this place, but God knows how to bring him back; and in His faithfulness and love He will do it because this is the place of blessing for His children.

It is the spiritual poor and not the financial poor who are pronounced “blessed.” The poor in spirit are blessed because they have a disposition the opposite of what was theirs by nature. They are blessed because they have in themselves the evidence that a Divine work of grace has been wrought in their heart. They are blessed because they are heirs of the kingdom of heaven in the present and in the hereafter.