“Jesus presented an upside-down kingdom.”
Jesus presented an upside-down kingdom. The very things valued by the Greco-Roman world – wealth and fame – we devalued in Christ’s kingdom. Blessed (Gk makaorioi, “blessed, fortunate”) is usually understood to mean “happy,” but more precisely the word suggests the idea of “being congratulated” because God’s favor is granted to the individual. The blessedness described in the Beatitudes is not a quality characteristic of human beings but a trait of God Himself. Only God imparts this blessedness – not on demand or as a result of your fulfilling prescribed conditions. Blessedness is a characteristic exclusively available to believers. Since this blessedness comes from within, it is neither caused nor affected by outside circumstances. Social and spiritual aspects of life are woven through each Beatitude. Believers are characterized by their humility and confidence in God. Through the Beatitudes Christ explained His personhood and His ministry, which were marked by humility and sacrifice. The world despised anyone who was considered weak, but Jesus taught that anyone who recognizes his own spiritual poverty and helplessness is ready for spiritual growth.
The poor [Gk ptochoi, from the root meaning “crouch,” suggesting a beggar who kneels in hope that his need will be supplied by another] in spirit (v. 5) could refer to those who are both spiritually impoverished and socially and economically oppressed. Nowhere in Scripture is poverty or absence of possessions declared to be the path to spiritual blessing. The emphasis was upon emptying yourself to make room for God. One who is poor cannot satisfy her own needs; she is driven by her poverty to dependence upon God. When self-sufficiency and pride are stripped away, you are ready to be responsive to God, His Word, and the gracious ministries He sends to meet your need. As with most godly character traits, the pattern is found in the life of Jesus, He came into the world in a humble setting – a stable manger in an insignificant village. There is no way into the kingdom of God other than with the poverty of spirit that comes from emptying yourself of pride, self-reliance, and self-sufficiency and in contrast filling yourself with God, His strength, and God-sufficiency. The emphasis is on God’s power instead of your resourcefulness.
The New Testament uses the phrases kingdom of heaven (v. 3) in three ways. Here all can be included in the meaning:
- the kingdom of God within the heart of a believer (Mt 6:33);
- the body that includes all believers on earth (Lk 11:2);
- the kingdom prepared for believers after death (Mt 16:19, Lk 9:62).
In each case God ushers in the kingdom, and Jesus reigns over it. Only the poor in spirit, claiming no personal merit, can enter because grace, and not works, opens the door.
Excerpt from Dorothy Kelley Patterson, “The Blessed Woman,” in The Study Bible for Women (Nashville: Holman Bible Publishers, 2014), 1247.