Chapter OneThe Beatitudes
Some time ago I had a chance to sit at a dinner table with an
Indy race car driver. Through the meal I could not help but
begin asking questions about what it is like to drive one of
these powerful cars. I asked what it is like to drive over 250
mph down the backstretch of a raceway. What does it feel like
to pass someone going 230 mph and to come within inches of
their car or feel the buzz and smell the burn of tires on tires?
What is it like to get loose in a turn going 190 mph? I just kept
asking the questions and he kept giving me answers. He loved
talking about it. You might say I sat there in wide-eyed wonderment
during the course of that meal. I was taking in everything
Some years ago I spoke with an astronaut. This guy had
actually spent time on the moon! When we would sit down for
meals together, I found myself amazed at what this man had
experienced. It was so strange and foreign to me that I just took
in every word he said. I asked him about what it felt like to be
weightless. What did the earth look like when you were standing
on the moon? Did you ever get sick of Tang? I sat in wide-eyed
wonderment in this situation as well.
Do you know what wide-eyed wonderment is? It is when
you are thoroughly fascinated with the subject matter and you
can't seem to take it all in. This happens when you begin to
hear about something so new, so strange, or so foreign to your
life-experience that you are staggered by what you hear. I
believe this is what the crowd must have felt when Jesus sat on
the mountainside and taught about His kingdom. It was all so
new, so powerful, and so fresh that they must have been in
complete wide-eyed wonderment.
Making the Connection
1. Describe a situation in which you found yourself in wide-eyed
Tell about a spiritual experience that left you in wide-eyed
Knowing and Being Known
Read Matthew 5:1-12
2. Which of these words of blessing (beatitudes) speaks to
our relationship with God and which ones speak to our
relationship with each other?
How do some of these beatitudes speak to both our relationship
with God and each other?
3. Each of the beatitudes has two parts: part one begins, "Blessed are ." and part two begins "for they ." The
second part of each of these beatitudes grows out of the
first part. Some of the beatitudes seem to make sense and
fit into our worldview; others do not. Identify one of the
beatitudes that makes sense to you (in other words, one in
which you think that part two grows naturally out of part
one). Explain what you believe Jesus is communicating in
this beatitude and why it makes sense to you.
4. Some of the beatitudes seem almost backwards. Identify
one of the beatitudes that does not seem to make sense (in
other words, part two does not seem to grow naturally out
of part one). What do you think Jesus is trying to communicate
through this seemingly backward statement?
5. Like the scribes and Pharisees of the first century, we can
be tempted to think we are "rich in spirit." What are some
signals or signs that spiritual pride is creeping in and that
a person is beginning to believe he or she is rich in spirit?
Why is this such a dangerous heart condition?
6. Describe a time when you were deeply struck by your
poverty of spirit.
How did this reality draw you closer to the heart of God?
Read 2 Corinthians 5:21 and 1 John 4:9-10
7. What is the role of God the Father in imputed righteousness?
What is the role of God the Son in this process?
8. What spiritual realities or life experiences have caused you
to hunger and thirst for God's righteousness?
What can we do as followers of Christ to deepen our hunger
for the things of God?
Blessed Are the Poor in Spirit
The scribes and Pharisees in the crowd that day were wealthy in spiritual
knowledge and piety, and downright affluent in spiritual activities. They
were raising the spiritual bar higher and higher and were certain they
could leap over it in a single bound! They did not need anything from
Jesus. They had manufactured enough righteousness in their own human
willpower that they could say, "We don't need what you are talking about.
We are rich in spirit."
There was another group in the crowd that day. These were the poor
in spirit. This group knew they were not members of the spiritual honor
society. They knew they were not setting righteousness records. They
would freely admit that they were not impressive spiritually, morally, or
ethically. In fact, people in that group hung their heads low because they
knew their spiritual net worth was downright scandalous.
Blessed Are Those Who Hunger and Thirst for Righteousness
There is a miraculous transfer at the heart of biblical Christianity. Theologians
call it "imputed righteousness." This spiritual reality sets Christianity
apart from every other religion in the world.
In every other religious system, a person finds righteousness through
following a set of religious rules and regulations. The more you follow the
rules, the more righteousness you find. In Christianity, we experience
imputed righteousness. It is given to us by God, not earned. When we realize
that we have insufficient righteousness in our heart and life and come
to the point where we know we will never measure up or achieve God's
standard of perfect righteousness, we have taken the first step. At this
point we begin to hunger and thirst for the righteousness we can never
find on our own. Finally, we look heavenward and cry, "I want to be in a
right relationship with You, God, but I know there is no way I can do it!
Help me, God!"
In that moment, God hears our cry and orders the transfer of the righteousness
of Jesus Christ to our account. We are made righteous because
of Christ, not by anything we have done. His righteousness is imputed to
us, and on that final day, when we stand before the Father, we will be seen
as perfectly righteous because of what God has done for us through His