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Without looking at the text, what would you say is the primary outcome of living out The Beatitudes as presented in the opening of The Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5?
A simple answer would be, “If you do these things you will be blessed.”
Now when He saw the crowds, He went up on a mountain (as Moses had done before Him) and He sat down (as Jewish teachers of His day usually did). His disciples gathered around Him.
There on the mountain Jesus teaches them all. And as He is teaching, crowds gather around and overhear His teachings, listen in, and are captivated. This, the Sermon on the Mount, is the first of the five Mosaic-like sermons in Matthew.*
2 And He began to teach them.
3 Jesus: Blessed are the spiritually poor—the kingdom of heaven is theirs.
4 Blessed are those who mourn—they will be comforted.
5 Blessed are the meek and gentle—they will inherit the earth.
6 Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness—they will be filled.
7 Blessed are the merciful—they will be shown mercy.
8 Blessed are those who are pure in heart—they will see God.
9 Blessed are the peacemakers—they will be called children of God.
10 Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness—the kingdom of heaven is theirs.
11 And blessed are you, blessed are all of you, when people persecute you or denigrate you or despise you or tell lies about you on My account. 12 But when this happens, rejoice. Be glad. Remember that God’s prophets have been persecuted in the past. And know that in heaven, you have a great reward. (The Voice translation)
Now first of all, I want to address that doing things because you will be (at some point in the near or distant future) is misreading the text, because Jesus is saying that the people who do or are these things (show mercy, work for peace) are already blessed. (In a parallel passage in Luke, there are also a number of woes offered, in that case, they could be seen as portends of the future, not a present state.)
But the matter of blessing is not today’s focus.
A few verses down we read,
14 And you, beloved, are the light of the world. A city built on a hilltop cannot be hidden. 15 Similarly it would be silly to light a lamp and then hide it under a bowl. When someone lights a lamp, she puts it on a table or a desk or a chair, and the light illumines the entire house. 16 You are like that illuminating light. Let your light shine everywhere you go, that you may illumine creation, so men and women everywhere may see your good actions, may see creation at its fullest, may see your devotion to Me, and may turn and praise your Father in heaven because of it. (The Voice translation*)
If God’s people live out The Beatitudes, we shine like lights, like a city on a hill.
Matthew Henry writes:
As the lights of the world, they are illustrious and conspicuous, and have many eyes upon them. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hid. The disciples of Christ, especially those who are forward and zealous in his service, become remarkable, and are taken notice of as beacons. They are for signs (Isa. 7:18), men wondered at (Zech. 3:8); all their neighbours have any eye upon them. Some admire them, commend them, rejoice in them, and study to imitate them; others envy them, hate them, censure them, and study to blast them…
…As the lights of the world, they are intended to illuminate and give light to others…
It’s interesting that elsewhere Jesus instructs us not to do our good works in order to be seen by other people, yet in this teaching it is central:
See here, First, How our light must shine—by doing such good works as men may see, and may approve of; such works as are of good report among them that are without, and as will therefore give them cause to think well of Christianity. We must do good works that may be seen to the edification of others, but not that they may be seen to our own ostentation; we are bid to pray in secret, and what lies between God and our souls, must be kept to ourselves; but that which is of itself open and obvious to the sight of men, we must study to make congruous to our profession, and praiseworthy, Phil. 4:8. Those about us must not only hear our good words, but see our good works; that they may be convinced that religion is more than a bare name, and that we do not only make a profession of it, but abide under the power of it.
Secondly, For what end our light must shine—“That those who see your good works may be brought, not to glorify you (which was the things the Pharisees aimed at, and it spoiled all their performances), but to glorify your Father which is in heaven.” …
Of course, we can blend the two foci of this passage and say that the light that shines is really the light of Christ, that “Blessed are…” is to be recipients of that heavenly light shining in and through us and reflected for the world to see. We get that from Isaiah 60:
2 See truly; look carefully—darkness blankets the earth;
people all over are cloaked in darkness.
But God will rise and shine on you;
the Eternal’s bright glory will shine on you, a light for all to see.
3 Nations north and south, peoples east and west, will be drawn to your light,
will find purpose and direction by your light.
In the radiance of your rising, you will enlighten the leaders of nations. (The Voice translation*)
So here’s what got me pointed in this direction today; a song by The City Harmonic, Light of the World. Enjoy.
*In The Voice translation, narrative sections are embedded in the text, and words or phrases are often amplified with additional text shown in italics.)