Tomorrow most of America will enjoy a huge feast for Thanksgiving. Tables will be set, friends and family will gather, and all will give thanks for their blessings. The day after has become known as Black Friday, the first shopping day that ushers in a season of overindulgence and consumerism. I think many of us have a love/hate relationship with these holidays. Celebration is good! Gathering with family it good! Giving gifts is good! Receiving gifts is good! How then do we avoid overspending, overindulging, over-scheduling, and the melancholy that comes when we over-extend?
Jesus ministered to the whole person. He addressed physical needs by healing the afflicted and ill, and he addressed depravity and spiritual needs by offering renewal of the mind and heart. In Matthew, in the area of Galilee, Jesus performed many miracles, and then he went up to the mountain and spoke to the people about the condition of their souls.
3 Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
4 Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.
5 Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.
6 Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.
7 Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.
8 Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.
9 Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons and daughters of God.
A quick search of the hashtag “blessed” reveals a bit about what our current culture perceives as being blessed. Many are selfies at exotic places or with exotic things. Others are showing off possessions. And many feel blessed by having family, friends, or a new baby to bring home. These aren’t the things that Jesus addresses here. He is speaking to a condition of the heart. The person who is merciful, pure in heart, meek—THOSE are the people that Jesus says are blessed.
Throughout Matthew 5 Jesus is speaking to the condition of our souls. This is not a list of rules, like the ten commandments, but a heart and mind transformation that goes deeper even than our actions and words.
You can have a huge feast, or no feasts at all this Holiday season. You can have a tree full of presents that rivals the best of Pinterest or forgo gifts altogether. Many Christians attempt to fight consumerism and aim for a simpler Christmas, in hopes of experiencing more of Jesus. Our best efforts, at extravagance or simplicity, will still come up empty if the condition of our heart is in need.
How then should we be blessed? Spend time with God this season. As you make your shopping lists, also make a prayer list. Make a commitment to read the Bible every night at dinner by yourself or with your family. Ask God to examine the innermost parts of your heart, "...search me and know me God, know my heart and deeds, and if you see any offensive way in me, point it out.” (Psalm 139:23-24)
What if this season we sought forgiveness? What if we prayed when we told people we would? Consider what spiritual practices can bring you into closer knowledge and understanding of God. Make those things the priority and see blessedness in your life.