Beginning with a Beatitude

Do you find it difficult to begin a piece of writing or a speech? I certainly do. Once I get started, I am alright. Beginning . . . that’s a challenge.

I have been teaching the Sermon on the Mount in our church. A few years back I taught it as a Greek exegesis course at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary when I was a doctoral student. The Beatitudes mesmerize me. Jesus covers a lot of ground with an economy of words.

And just how did the Messiah start this ‘first’ public discourse? “Happy are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Mt. 5:3). Note: While it is impossible to know for certain whether this was Jesus’ first public discourse (aside from preaching in the synagogues and towns a bit), Matthew seems to present it that way.

Everyone wants to be happy; it is the motive behind everything we do. In the Beatitudes, Jesus reveals his concern for our happiness, but he teaches us that happiness is not found where we might naturally think. Jesus’ first quality to highlight was poverty of spirit, which I define as a humble recognition that I bring nothing of spiritual significance to the table when I approach God. He said that’s the beginning point of true joy and fulfillment.