Community Group Study Guide — The Beatitudes: A Guide to a Flourishing Life
What are the Beatitudes?
Jesus sits down on a mountainside to teach the crowd. Likely Jesus did this to point his hearers to Moses who gave the commands of God from Mount Sinai. Indeed much of Matthew 5-7 is Jesus explaining the intent of the Law of God and the fulfillment of it in him. Jesus begins his sermon with nine statements of “Blessing” that paint a picture of what redeemed life in his kingdom looks like.
“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
“Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.
“Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.
“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.
“Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.
“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.
“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.
“Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
“Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you. (ESV)
Notice three things about the Beatitudes:
First, What Jesus declares as “blessed” are things that many of us spend a lot of time trying to avoid… humility, mourning, gentleness, persecution, etc. Yet, what we see is that while some of these situations may be uncomfortable, they are actually a pathway to happiness and a deeper relationship with God.
If the world wrote a series of “Beatitudes” they’d probably read “Blessed are the self sufficient, for they will take their kingdom”, “Blessed are those who are comforted, for they will never need to mourn” and “Blessed are you when people say nice things about you for your reward will be great on this earth.”
This has led many of us to see the Beatitudes as the “upside down” blessings of being in God’s kingdom. It could be that your season of mourning, or having to enter into conflict, or a time of being humbled are actually a pathway to long-term happiness and flourishing; and the promise of the Beatitudes is that God will meet you in those times in a special way to produce maturity and happiness in you.
None of these statements are our natural tendency. They are only possible through being given a new heart and having the Holy Spirit. The joy of this is that if you are naturally meek (gentle) God will make you even more so as your spiritually mature and walk with him. Likewise it means that even the proudest person can be made poor in spirit.
Second, Jesus is painting a picture of what a truly flourishing and growing spirit life looks like. The Beatitudes are built on the Greek word Makarios which means happy or flourishing, but often translated as “Blessed” in the english bible. They show us a countercultural vision of “the good life”. One where even in our brokenness and discomfort we find more of God and therefore flourish as human beings renewed by the gospel. God cares deeply about our happiness and shows us what that looks like as we follow Jesus. Our happiness is built around living out love for God and love for one another and this is catalyzed as we are drawn closer to God.
The Beatitudes are important for the Christian life because we are designed to find happiness and purpose. We can look at pretty much all of our actions and see that we choose to do things that we think will bring us satisfaction and “life” in either that moment or in the long term. As we understand the gospel, mature spiritually and by God’s ongoing work in our hearts we will find our satisfaction and joy in God more and more. Humanity was designed to live in close relationship with God, to appreciate the beautiful world he made and to work in a way where things in our care grow and reflect the Lord. Yet practically our pursuit of happiness is distorted by sin. Often we look for happiness and flourishing in the world with things that only bring sorrow in the long run. Just look at the writer of Ecclesiastes as he details out his money, public works, parties and intellectual endeavors… in the end what are they? The answer he gives: Meaningless.
The warning of the Beatitudes as we study them is: do not buy into the vision of the “good life” that the world is selling. Jesus offers you a different picture of what a flourishing and happy life looks like. Likewise, do not assume that the challenging aspects of your life are going to lead to despair. God often meets us in those moments and moves us towards hims.
Finally, do not forget to dwell on the second half of each verse. Each statement is built around a declaration of blessing or flourishing and then a promise that results. God desires that his people find righteousness, live in his kingdom, become sons and daughters, find mercy and comfort. What the Lord offers his people is of immense value: a kingdom, comfort, satisfaction, mercy and a new identity. These things are not things we need to earn or strive for, but what God desires to give. Jesus invites his disciples to find happiness and flourishing in their relationship with God and God delights to produce these things in his people as we put into practice his ways.
Jesus gives his hearers a picture of what a life of joy and flourishing looks like through the gospel. These statements of blessing go against how the world would define a meaningful and fruitful life, however Jesus sees a life of flourishing as one that leans into their deep need for God.
At your community group:
Take 15-20 minutes to share about how God has been at work in your life, prayer concerns and pray for one another.
How did God speak to you through the scripture and the sermon this week?
What is Jesus’ goal in beginning the Sermon on the Mount with the Beatitudes?
How do these statements go against what is “natural” for many of us? How do you think someone who does not follow Jesus would respond to the idea that happiness and flourishing are found in these “Blessings?”
Why do you think Beatitudes begin with “Blessed are the poor in Spirit?” Why is it that the kingdom of God is promised to the humble and broken?
Has God been at work on one of these areas in your life recently? What has that been like and how has he been working out the “promise” side of the statement (ie: receiving mercy, being called sons of God, etc)?