You have been given an invaluable gift. The only way you can pay it back is by paying it forward.
“You’re blessed when you’re at the end of your rope. With less of you there is more of God and his rule.
Every now and then I ask someone if there’s any specific topic they’d like me to discuss. You might see it as me being lazy…which might be true around the house and gym.
But when it comes to teaching the gospel of Jesus, I want to make sure it’s not only good news but also relevant to where you are in life.
And this is important because our lives are being bombarded with negativity from every angle. Trash talking, truth bending, intolerance, self-idolization are all par for the course.
People often ask me if there’s any good left in our world. So I pass on the good news of Jesus Christ, who some 2,000 years ago had to deal with societies garbage and taught us how to do the same.
Thankfully the person I asked a suggestion from is in a really good place on her spiritual journey. She’s taking the words of Jesus more seriously. And has been working on living them out more intentionally. As a result, her relationship with Jesus has deepened. And God has truly blessed her life. So she asked me to talk about blessings and how she can pay it forward for Christ.
In my opinion there is no better place to begin than upon the hillside where Jesus gives his inaugural address. Read Matthew 5:1-12.
Henri Nouwen was kind enough to remind us that the beatitudes “offer us more of a self-portrait of Jesus than that of ourselves.” And thank God, right? I mean, who wants to be poor or always in mourning? I don’t know anyone who wakes up hoping to be persecuted.
Seriously, whose truly gentle, merciful, pure in heart, and a peacemaker these days? It’s not easy to always be concerned about justice when the kids need to get to school and find ways to cover the bills.
In her book “Accidental Saints,” Nadia Bolz-Webber doesn’t see the beatitudes as some kind of conditions that need to be met in order for us to be blessed, but describes them as the “lavish blessings of the people” who came to see Jesus speak. They are the lucky ones, even if luck has never been on their side.
To summarize Bolz-Webber's point, Jesus’ blessings are gifts, freely given to the ones who “the world didn’t seem to have much time for: People in pain, people who work for peace instead of profit, people who exercise mercy instead of vengeance.” The people we don’t always look up to or admire. Jesus just goes around blessing people who, for the most part, society has deemed undeserving or unworthy.
Have you ever felt like that? Like maybe you don’t deserve to be blessed – believing you’re not good enough, or poor enough, or meek enough to receive the love and grace of God? But Jesus says you are good. You are worthy. You are enough.
“You are blessed when you are content with just who you are—no more, no less.”
But how often do we forget that each blessing come from the very heart of God? This means that when we accept such blessings we become a part of God’s heart; the proud owners of everything that can’t be bought.
My friend is feeling God’s heart beating inside her. It’s awakening in her a new sense of purpose. She has come to realize that God’s blessings didn’t stop with Jesus. They didn’t die on the cross. They were resurrected with him, and now flow through us. When we receive the blessing of God’s love and grace, we become that very blessing. And we, like Jesus, must give them all away “as if blessings grew on trees!”
So when Jesus calls us to love God and to love others, he is essentially saying “You have been given an invaluable gift. The only way you can pay it back is by paying it forward.”
As Jesus said, “You’re blessed when you get your inside world—your mind and heart—put right. Then you can see God in the outside world.”
In her novel "Pay It Forward," Catherine Ryan Hyde takes this ancient wisdom one step further. She believes it’s our obligation to do three good deeds to others in repayment for one good deed we receive. By this measure, one blessing can spread exponentially through society, creating a social movement so powerful that it can redeem and transform the entire world. This seems right up Jesus’ alley, don’t you think?
As we have learned in past weeks, Jesus had a way of multiplying blessings by sharing his life with others. And if we believe Jesus actually meant what he said back in the first century, then it must still apply to us in the 21st century.
Our ministry begins the same way as Jesus’ – with a blessing. By accepting God’s love and grace through Jesus Christ. I invite you to take this amazing gift and let it grow in your heart. Then when it feels right, share it. Pay it forward, and watch love grow. Watch peoples lives transform before your own eyes. Watch hearts beat as one. The One.
Jesus’ words and blessings are purposeful and intentional: to restore human beings to their true self and beauty. From this particular hillside to the one that he will later be crucified on, Jesus never stopped caring for those who the system overlooked, and pushed aside.
You know who they are - the homeless, the poor, the lonely, the angry, the uneducated, the incarcerated, the widows and kids in foster care. But they are also relatives, neighbors, co-workers, and friends who can’t seem to get a break, or fall on hard times, and slowly become invisible. Jesus makes it a point to bless them because we all need to be blessed.
Just as Jesus confronted the injustices of the world, so too must we; using the same love and grace that has been given to us. For the blessings we receive from God are the very blessings we are to be for God.
Through Jesus Christ, God has provided us with everything we need to bless the hungry, the thirsty, the sick, and the dying. Through Christ Jesus, God has given us a living example of how to honor the poor in a way that empowers them; to show mercy and forgiveness to those who have hurt us, even if we get nothing in return; to strive for peace instead of war with people and with nations.
If we want to get things right in the world, especially in our own life, then according to Jesus we must love each other, and lead others to do the same.
For as it is written, “You’re blessed when you can show people how to cooperate instead of compete or fight. That’s when you discover who you really are, and your place in God’s family.”
Jesus shows us the way to be in the world without being of it. When we model our lives on his, we will be comforted and we will have our fill; mercy will be shown to us; and our past mistakes erased.
Best of all, the kingdom of heaven will reign, and a new earth will be our inheritance – a blessing that is so abundant we can give away freely without losing a thing.
In fact, the more we give it away, the more we will receive in kind.
Boltz-Webber, Nadia. Accidental Saints: Finding God in all the Wrong People. Convergent: New York; 2015. p. 184.