Recently I began writing about the Beatitudes, the opening statements from Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, starting with Matthew 5:3 – “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” The crowds who gathered to hear Him needed to hear this Beatitude first of all because if anyone refuses to be humble before Christ, the rest of His speech won’t matter. The more we see Him as the King we need, the more He can, and will, bless us.
Next Jesus moved to the second of the Beatitudes, Matthew 5:4 –
“Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.”
Before digging into the meaning of this statement, today’s focus is on the idea that Jesus did not put the set of Beatitudes in a random order, but that He intends them as a sequence. Not everyone takes this view, but to me the sequence makes sense and Jesus – the best teacher ever – would not do anything by accident.
To see the connection between the first two Beatitudes, consider the book of James where he cautions against being a “double-minded man”. The book begins by saying that going through trials helps a Christian grow. In testing times, we should ask God for wisdom – trusting God’s voice within our conscience, calling us to action by faith – and he contrasts that with being “double-minded.” While God gives wisdom “generously to all without reproach,” a double-minded man ignores wisdom and ends up “driven and tossed by the wind…unstable in all his ways.” (James 1:5-8). The original Greek language suggests being “double-minded” is like “having two spirits.” Such a person cannot make up their mind which voice to follow in their conscience; while having God’s guidance, they are unable to follow it and end up lost. They do not have the kingdom of heaven.
Later, James comes back to the word “double-minded” in 4:8, saying that overcoming this inability to follow God’s guidance is “What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you” (4:1). Then in verse 9, he recommends: “Be wretched and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom.”
Thus, James provides a link in the Beatitudes’ progression. Being double-minded is like lacking the kingdom of heaven. Inability to follow the right voice leads to our “quarrels” and “fights”, while leaving us “unstable.” Knowing these consequences of failing to be poor in spirit, James suggests mourning as the first, and proper, response to our spiritual poverty.
We do not naturally associate blessing with mourning, but neither did being poor in spirit seem like blessing. When we mourn, we acknowledge that we have not been poor in spirit but have sought our own way. That this has consequences. Jesus offers us blessing now in the reassurance of comfort to come.
“Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted” – Matthew 5:4
Over the rest of this week, I hope to expand on what this mourning means, Jesus’ reaction to those who mourn, hope God provides for those who mourn, and the link to the next Beatitude. For the rest of the Beatitudes, I hope to show how each one builds blessing upon blessing as the kingdom of God is built within each of His people. We will see how God’s plans affect mine as we go.