The Sermon on the Mount is Jesus’ description of a blessed life. In short, righteousness is blessed. His teaching recorded in Matthew 5 describes genuine righteousness in ways that are often different than what we might expect.
Someone who is pursuing unmixed and unhindered righteousness will be persecuted for being different. Peacemaking will be a priority when dealing with conflict, purity of heart will be more important than defending oneself as “good enough” and proactive mercy will dominate their actions instead of reactive demands for justice. In short, righteousness that gets you persecuted from the worldly is righteousness of growing in character to be more and more like your heavenly father. Matthew 6 then describes how to develop this genuine righteousness with integrity.
“Watch out! Don’t do your good deeds publicly, to be admired by others, for you will lose the reward from your Father in heaven.
When you give to someone in need, don’t do as the hypocrites do—blowing trumpets in the synagogues and streets to call attention to their acts of charity! I tell you the truth, they have received all the reward they will ever get.
But when you give to someone in need, don’t let your left hand know what your right hand is doing. Give your gifts in private, and your Father, who sees everything, will reward you.” – Jesus (Mt 6:1-4)
Alms giving, praying, and fasting are core religious practices of the Jews but also of most religions. Evangelicals talk about the difference between occasional givers, tithers, and extravagant givers. Do you ever find yourself waiting before you start eating until you are sure others see you pray? Has anyone ever done “The Daniel Fast” and not posted about it on social media?
Jesus is not forbidding public displays of spiritual disciplines. Rather, he is explaining how to check yourself before you wreck yourself in regard to religious hypocrisy. Why? Because the sad truth is that one of the most destructive forces in spiritual growth is the allure of religious pride. We sometimes want people to know us as kind of a big deal, don’t we?
Wisdom > Shame
Jesus’ advice for growing in genuine righteousness is to be attentive to spiritual disciplines so that there are times where the only reward you can get from practicing them is from God. Most of our spiritual disciplines are observed by people and God, there is no real way or need to avoid that.
When we give mercifully, whether financially or in acts of service, people are involved and will notice. Our prayer life can be extensive in private but it will also include praying with and for other people. Our fasting with brokenness over serious issues is often observable, as is our treasuring of heavenly values over the impermanent riches of this world.
Focusing on the times you exercise spiritual disciplines where only God knows is a way to stay calibrated with your goal:
“Be complete/perfect/mature (teleios) like your heavenly father.” Mt. 5:48
Remember, the Sermon on the Mount is about the blessing of living in the ways of the Kingdom of Heaven. The first and last beatitudes serve as bookends to the others to highlight this:
Blessed are the poor in spirit,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn,
for they will be comforted.
Blessed are the meek,
for they will inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
for they will be filled.
Blessed are the merciful,
for they will be shown mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart,
for they will see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers,
for they will be called children of God.
Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. (Mt. 5:3-10)
God, your heavenly father, is the king. The kingdom of heaven is the rule of the father and his ways. By practicing the ethical priorities of the father just because they are right, you are blessed. “Blessed” in the Sermon on the Mount is not about getting something. “Blessed” is about who you become. We hear what Jesus teaches and we think about it. We choose to trust Jesus and his teachings as our foundational identity. We then do what he says, building on his foundation. What happens when our character is tested by the storms of life? We stand firm, like our father. That is what the kingdom of heaven is like. That is blessed.
Is your life blessed? Do you want it to be?
Think: Learn what Jesus teaches in the Sermon on the Mount.
Be: Identify as a Sermon on the Mount Christian.
Do: Practice the wisdom of the Sermon on the Mount with Jesus and his people.