The Secret to Finding Jesus and the (Truly) Good Life
How would you describe the Good Life? If you’re being completely honest, and no one would know your answers, how would you respond?
How would you fill in the following blank? The Good Life is ______________________________________.
Would you respond with an answer similar to one of these?
• Having a fun, easy marriage and healthy, worry-free children
• Enjoying a bottomless savings account, so I never think about expenses
• Always being surrounded by good friends and great food
• Living in a large house, with a well-manicured lawn, on a property with acres of freedom
• Losing fifteen pounds and being crazy good-looking
• Becoming the senior leader of my company/organization, with hundreds of people following me
• Being widely respected and even famous in my small slice of the world
Now, how do you think Jesus would answer that question?
Would he answer it generally the same way, except with a few extra provisions for holiness and giving to his Church?
It’s an important question: Has Jesus come to earth, died on the cross, and risen from the grave in order to create more comfort, stability, acceptance, and status in your life?
In the Sermon on the Mount—Jesus’s famous teaching recorded in Matthew 5-7—our Lord reframes the Good Life.
He doesn’t say that there is no Good Life or that it’s wrong to pursue the Good Life. Instead, he boldly announces blessings, or “beatitudes,” on several groups of people. So we have a clear picture of the Good Life, direct from the Savior’s heart. Here’s what it means to be blessed with the Good Life…
- Blessed are you who are poor in spirit
- Blessed are you who mourn
- Blessed are you who are hungry and thirsty
- Blessed are you who are pure and merciful
- Blessed are you who are rejected and persecuted
In the Beatitudes, everything is upside down. Or more accurately, Jesus is turning our world right-side up.
Jesus’s Beatitudes demonstrate a life of true blessedness—the truly Good Life. True blessedness isn’t found in looking within ourselves or developing self-esteem. The Good Life isn’t found by focusing on me at all. Instead, blessedness is found in less of me and more of Christ.
As Kyle Idleman writes in The End of Me,
“These specific beatitudes will lead us, sometimes kicking and screaming, down this path to real life… Jesus will show us that blessings begin and fulfillment is found in the least likely place—the end of ourselves… Real life is found at the end of me.” (15)
Who is Blessed?
Consider, broadly, the groups who get Jesus’s blessings:
- The poor in spirit
- the sorrowful
- the hungry
- the pure-hearted
- the merciful
- the persecuted
What do all these people have in common? They are at the end of themselves and have nothing to offer.
Jesus starts with blessings for the “poor in spirit.” Why? Poverty is to be in need, to lack resources and possessions. When talking about being poor, we might say we are broke. It’s a lighthearted term, but it highlights a connection between poverty and brokenness. We think of poor people as broken people.
According to Jesus, blessed are the broke—the poor and broken. They are the blessed ones.
“Blessed are you when you’re so broke you have nothing to offer…” Jesus is saying that God’s kingdom begins in you when you come to the end of yourself and realize you have nothing to offer. It’s precisely the opposite of every assumption we tend to make in this world.”
This flies in the face of everything we are taught in life. Do any of these sound familiar?
“Stand up straight.”
“Get what’s yours.”
“Don’t think too highly of yourself”(Romans 12:3)
“Give away what you’ve earned” (Matthew 22:21)
“Take a break every now and then” (Mark 2:27; Luke 10:38)
“Pull yourself up.”
“Get it together.”
“Prove you have what it takes.”
“Turn the other cheek” (Matthew 5:39)
“Don’t make yourself look more spiritual than you are” (Matthew 6:1)
“Ask for help” (James 1:5)
“Don’t ask for help”
“Don’t give in to the pain.”
“Don’t ever give up.”
“Put others first” (Romans 12:10)
“Acknowledge your limitations” (Psalm 16)
“Give up—and find the truly Good Life” (Matthew 10:39)
See, Jesus flips the script. The laws and ways cut through the world’s addiction to performance and self-sufficiency.
Blessedness and Flourishing
Too often, we equate “blessing” with financial and material abundance. We might think of receiving a surprise check in the mail just before a bill is due. We might think of someone who feels slightly self-conscious about the size and cost of their house offering the statement, “It’s such a blessing.” And we might think of smooth-selling televangelists offering “blessings” in return for a donation to their private jet fund.
But the blessing is a deeper, fuller word. In its original meaning lies a far greater abundance than financial or material. A better blessing exists!
When Jesus spoke of blessing, he was giving us a holistic vision of human flourishing. One New Testament scholar translates these verses as “flourishing” instead of “blessed”:
- Flourishing are the poor in spirit because the kingdom of heaven is theirs.
- Flourishing are the mourners because they will be comforted.
- Flourishing are the humble because they will inherit the world.
Jesus’s blessings would have reminded the listeners of the many promises of blessing in the Old Testament, but also of the virtues taught by Greek philosophers. In this way, Jesus was appealing to both worlds, and showing that his new “laws” fulfilled the longings of both Jewish and Gentile thought.
All worldly systems begin on the premise of flourishing through achievement, comfort, and status. But our world is broken. Jesus wants to flip us right-side-up: You flourish you when you are poor in spirit.
So, what is God inviting you to? How do you sense the Lord leading you to embrace your weaknesses, limitations, and brokenness? And who in your life—who feels their own weakness—could use the loving encouragement of Jesus from you?
Blessed are you who are poor in spirit!
* Jonathan Pennington, The Sermon on the Mount and Human Flourishing: A Theological Commentary, xv.
Are you interested in a deep, authentic relationship with Jesus? The end of you is the beginning. In this four-week study, return to that first-century hillside with Jesus and the disciples. Sit among the crowd and listen in on Jesus’s words afresh. Receive his invitation to come to the end of yourself—and in doing so, find what you’ve always been searching for. Learn more about The End of Me Now!
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