Upside Down Blessings

Read: Matthew 5:1-10
Blessed are the poor in spirit (Matthew 5:3 NIV).

I traveled to Russia soon after the fall of the Iron Curtain. Tensions ran high, and I was still wary of the Soviet military and leadership. I flew alone from Kiev, Ukraine, into Moscow. Due to miscommunication, I failed to secure the necessary visa. I was detained in the Moscow airport and held overnight by Soviet guards. It was an unnerving experience. But the guards gave me one of their coats to use as a blanket and even invited me to participate in target practice—a game they’d set up with a pellet gun and cups in the terminal. Kindness and blessing arrived at the unlikeliest moment.

In Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, He announced blessing on precisely the people everyone else regarded as not blessed. “Blessed are the poor in spirit,” Jesus began (Matthew 5:3 NIV). He blessed the ones who truly have little power or resources.

Sometimes, we read these Jesus-blessings as commands and subsequent rewards. It’s better, however, to read them as pronouncements. It’s not that Jesus noticed virtuous qualities in people and then responded to their good behavior with blessing. Rather, Jesus welcomed those who were most broken, desperate, and marginalized, and He announced the truth that in the kingdom of God those thought to have no hope possess the hope God gives.

Hearing these blessings instructs us in numerous ways. First, it forces us to wrestle with the “upside-down nature” of God’s kingdom. Second, it gives concrete direction for those we are to bless if we’re citizens of God’s kingdom (the poor, the sorrowful, etc.). Finally, these blessings provide courage for us as we obey God, knowing that our obedience to the kingdom-life He describes will inevitably land us among the marginalized and oppressed. But we can have hope. God will meet us there, and we will be blessed.

Taken from “Our Daily Journey”