What is the Good Life?

Passage: Matthew 5:1-12

5:1 When he saw the crowds, he went up the mountain. After he sat down his disciples came to him. 5:2 Then he began to teach them by saying:
5:3 “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to them.
5:4 “Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.
5:5 “Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.
5:6 “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be satisfied.
5:7 “Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.
5:8 “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.
5:9 “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called the children of God.
5:10 “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to them.

5:11 “Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you and say all kinds of evil things about you falsely on account of me. 5:12 Rejoice and be glad because your reward is great in heaven, for they persecuted the prophets before you in the same way.


Soul Search Essay

I have highlighted in other essays that what work and business can confer on a person is not the “Good Life.”  Money.  Status.  Power.  These are not the good life nor are they inherently good or positive.  (They are also not inherently evil, but pursuit of them creates a lot of evil.)  So, what did Jesus offer as the characteristics of the disciple’s good life within his kingdom (i.e. prior to his second coming)?  He offered the Beatitudes.

Matthew’s reporting of the Beatitudes (Sermon on the Mount) and Luke’s reporting of a similar set of Beatitudes (Sermon on the Plain) provide critical illustrations of the Good Life in the kingdom we now inhabit.

In the English translation you own and use, you may see the word “Happy,” rather than the term the NET uses above, which is “blessed.”  The actual Greek word (which transliterates as “makarios”) can be translated blessed, happy, fortunate, etc.  The critical thing to understand is that the verb does not mean happy the way Americans understand happy.  It means something closer to “you are in fortunate circumstances when…” or “God has gifted you with….”  This is critical in understanding this list from Jesus.

So, if Jesus did not come to bring you power, wealth, and status in society and business, what did and does he bring?  Also, if he does not see power, wealth and status as positive states, what states does he directly say are positive?  The Beatitudes answer these questions.

I will cover these in several essays, but first please read what is below with the following questions in mind:

How can these be part of a good life?  What is good about each item?  Does my life reflect any or all of the beatitudes?  What does my tally of the Beatitudes say about my life?

The first half of each Beatitude describes a specific life state.  So, if you are in the following state or states, this is part of a disciple’s good life:

“[You are fortunate if you] are the poor in spirit, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to them.”  Spiritually poor here is in the sense of beaten down and dependent on external support.

“[You are fortunate if you] are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.”  To be mournful here refers to the state of experiencing an objective emotion caused by being in a retched, horrible situation.”

“[You are fortunate if you] are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.’ Meek or weak here is not an attitude, but a position of powerlessness, either due to lacking power or (and this is important) due to having power, but refusing to use it for your own ends.”

“[You are fortunate if you] are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be satisfied.” Hungry and thirsty for righteousness means a continuing personal and consistently intentional submission to the radical remodeling of your life, relationships, opinions, character, conduct, personality, behavior, in short every single thing about you; nothing withheld.”
In a prior essay, I shared the logic behind the paragraph below:

“[You are fortunate if you] are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.” Merciful here indicates a method of engaging others by seeing an offender’s point of view regardless of whether the person harmed you directly and violently or indirectly with subtlety. Your seeing into this person’s experiential world leads not only to not gloating over harm that comes to the offender, but instead you empathize with the offender and forgive him or her.

“[You are fortunate if you] are the pure in heart, for they will see God.”  Pure in heart here means that you long to live the life God has for you where the longing is emotional, willful, behavioral and cognitive (i.e. Heart in Hebrew conception includes all of these elements)

“[You are fortunate if you] are the peacemakers, for they will be called the children of God.”  Being a peacemaker means acting to bring about interpersonal peace in an evil world dominated by evil in relationships.  (Note that this is not peace at any price.)

[You are fortunate if you] are those who are persecuted for righteousness, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to them.” Righteousness here refers to an internal God-given state that enables public demonstration to non-Christians of your chosen allegiance and reliance on Jesus; it is living publicly as Christ’s ally and messenger; it is staying and living out your salvation created otherness. In short, true discipleship will (not may) produce persecution.

“[You are fortunate] when people insult you and persecute you and say all kinds of evil things about you falsely on account of me. Rejoice and be glad because your reward is great in heaven, for they persecuted the prophets before you in the same way.”

Reading just the first half of each Beatitude is not likely to produce responses such as, “Of course!  Sure that has to be part of the good life.”  Reading the second half of each is more likely to produce such a response since these portions are more affirming and comforting.  These halves cannot be split though.

The first half of each beatitude is what leads to the the second half.  When this fact is considered, many disciples struggle with the expectations Christ sets out in the Beatitudes.  The idea that the ‘good life’ incorporates such difficult and painful things seems like a mockery of the term “good Life.”  How can being poor in spirit, mourning, weak, persecuted be ‘good?’

The following essays attempt to shed some light on this.

I recognize (from some feedback) that my essays are challenging.  They require a fair amount of thought to understand.  I intentionally weave multiple concepts together, which makes the writing dense. If I need to clarify something, leave me a comment.  My writing is pointless or worse than pointless if it is not understandable.

Clarity belongs to the reader, yet the writer must create it.  Only the reader, however, can shine light on a lack of clarity.  I welcome that light.

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