The Fall and Rise of the Godly Person
In Matthew 23:12, Jesus says, "Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted." Being humbled is an uncomfortable, but necessary part of growing in Christ. If we stubbornly resist God will make sure we encounter situations in our lives that do humble us.
In Matthew 23:12, Jesus says, “Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.” Being humbled is an uncomfortable, but necessary part of growing in Christ.
If we stubbornly resist God will make sure we encounter situations in our lives that do humble us. But, as Jesus says here, we can choose to humble ourselves.
How do we do that? Jesus answers this question in our reading from Matthew 5 in the section called the Beatitudes. The nine blessings that make up the Beatitudes aren’t just a list – they’re a progression from humility to exaltation. When we look at them as a whole, we see someone convicted by their sin, humbled by it, but then rising out of the experience to be a new person in Christ.
When we’re open and honest with our sinfulness, we are broken, but that’s all part of the process.
First, Jesus says, “Blessed are the poor in spirit” (v3). To be poor in spirit means to recognize our spiritual poverty. It’s like what David said when confessing his sin – “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.” (Psa. 51:17). When we’re open and honest with our sinfulness, we are broken, but that’s all part of the process.
After realizing our sinfulness, we can come to the next Beatitude – “Blessed are those who mourn” (v4). Sin brings sadness into our lives. Sin’s effect on ourselves and our loved ones can be devastating. That’s why we mourn when we realize what we’ve done and the consequences our actions bring. But, again, it’s all part growing in Christ.
The next one in the list is about a humble attitude – “Blessed are the meek” (v5). Being meek is a state of mind, a way of thinking. When we view life through a lens of humility, we are quick to notice our own failings and slow to judge others.
But God doesn’t want us to wallow in a pit of misery and despair because of our sin. Next, Jesus says, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness” (v6). When we’ve been humbled by our failings, and find ourselves at the bottom of the pit, then we can truly seek the good things of God. Hungering and thirsty are great metaphors for the yearning the humble person has for doing things right. We grow to hate sin and love righteousness.
The first outcome of our new attitude is what Jesus says in verse 7 – “Blessed are the merciful.” It’s not easy for a proud person to be merciful to others. It’s only when we have been humbled by our own sin that we can walk in the shoes of others. We understand what others are going through when they fail. And we also understand that being merciful is God’s way of dealing with sin.
The positive side of the Beatitudes comes out in the next verse – “Blessed are the pure in heart” (v8). Being pure in heart means being single-minded and committed to God. You can’t do that when you haven’t recognized your sin and accepted its consequences. When we’re proud, ignoring our failings, then we’re going to justify being double-minded, getting away with sin while pretending to follow God’s ways. The person who is pure in heart has learned to hate sin and love righteousness.
Next, Jesus says, “Blessed are the peacemakers” (v9). Making peace is about bringing others into a state of reconciliation. It’s about solving the problem of sin when one person offends another. We can’t be good peacemakers unless we’ve gone through the process of humbling ourselves and being exalted by God.
Humbling ourselves is entirely against nature.The final two Beatitudes seem like a strange end to the process – “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake” (v10) and “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account.” (v11). Why should persecution and being reviled be counted as blessings? Because we’re going against the grain of what man is like naturally. Humbling ourselves is entirely against nature. We tend to stubbornly stick to our prideful position in the face of the evidence of our failings. And it’s because we’re not acting like people usually act that it brings adverse reactions from those who are full of pride. Jesus experienced it with the pride scribes and Pharisees. We know we’re on the right track when we’re not in tune with how the world around us thinks and acts.
Simi Hills, CA