In Direct Proportion

Posted: December 15, 2011 in Wandering Thoughts

A circuit preacher and his young son traveled the countryside on horseback. When they approached a small town the preacher would offer to preach a sermon at the small church in exchange for what the congregation could afford to pay. At one such small church, the preacher and his son entered the church and the preacher casually threw a quarter into the poor box. After a fine sermon, one of the congregation stood and thanked the preacher and said, “We’re a small church and we can afford to pay you only what’s in the poor box.” He opened the box and dropped the contents into the preacher’s hand…a quarter. As the preacher and his son were riding away, the preacher was grumbling about the meager pay. The son listened for a bit and said “Dad, if you wanted more out, why didn’t you put more in?”

Here’s what the story says to me, hungering and thirsting! To the degree that i hunger and thirst i receive.

i had to go to Matthew 6 to look at this, and i began to see how much more significant this becomes. i looked at the structure of the beatitudes. There are eight beatitudes with verse 10 as the last one and verse 11 as an expansion of it. The first beatitude (verse 3) and the last beatitude (verse 10) give the same words of assurance: “For theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” It looks like a sandwich: the top piece of bread and the bottom piece of bread both say, “Theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”

i noticed that there are two groups of four, and the first four and the second four end with a reference to “righteousness.” The first group of four ends with verse 6: “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness.” And the second group of four ends with verse 10: “Blessed are those who are persecuted the sake of righteousness.”

The three beatitudes leading up to hunger for righteousness in verse 6 are descriptions of emptiness or passivity: poverty-stricken in spirit (verse 3), mourning over our sin and our misery (verse 4), meekly accepting criticism without retaliation or defensiveness (verse 5). These are not characteristics of overflowing fullness. They are good in their proper place, but they are not yet the richness and fullness and overflowing activity of goodness that i long for.

In other words, after pronouncing a blessing upon me when i recognize my emptiness and don’t try to justify or defend myself, Jesus now makes a transition from emptiness to fullness.

Then the next three beatitudes. After hunger and satisfaction in verse 6 comes, “Blessed are the merciful” (in verse 7). Now i am as the blessed person is full and overflowing in mercy. i am not merely broken and sorrowful and meek. i am now active and overflowing with deeds of mercy. Verse 8 says that i am pure in heart and verse 9 says that i am not just peaceful, but a peacemaker.

The second group of four beatitudes ends with another reference to righteousness. Only this time it is not a hunger for righteousness which i was lacking, but a persecution for righteousness with which i am overflowing.

In closing, the first four beatitudes describe me as the broken, grieving, quiet person who hungers and thirsts for righteousness. And the next four beatitudes describe me as the merciful, pure peacemaker who gets persecuted for my righteousness. Doesn’t this structure, then, give me the definition of righteousness? If i was hungering for righteousness in verse 6 because i was empty, and then i get persecuted for righteousness in verse 10 because i’ve been filled, isn’t it proper to define righteousness as that with which i have been filled?—namely, mercy, purity, and peacemaking?

“Blessed am i who hunger and thirst for righteousness“—those being me who longs to be filled with righteousness, namely, mercy, purity, and peacemaking.

God listened for a bit and said “ed, if you wanted more out, why didn’t you put more in?”

  1. chris paul
    Hey, fantastic post. You always have great content material. Totally agree with every little thing you just posted. tim tebow

  2. Ann Marie says:

    Love how well the story worked with your devo!

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