“Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect” (Matt. 5: 48).
This statement by Jesus as he delivered the Sermon on the Mount, is deemed by many as an impossibility. Why? Man cannot be perfect because he was conceived in sin, and God is not and cannot be the father of a sinner. Further, Jesus is God–the Almighty who transformed Himself into a mortal and came down on earth to save sinners–those who were once created perfect by him, but strayed from that perfection through human will. Even though this is a commonly held view, it is not one that I hold or respect. Thus, this article will explore how an opposite view can lead to higher levels of thought that enable one to gain inspiration and discover the wonder of what it means to understand the Sermon on the Mount.
Several questions will be explored:
1. What does it mean to be blessed?
2. What elements of the Sermon show us how to live with one another?
3. Does the Lord’s Prayer cover the needs of mankind?
The Sermon on the Mount is a comprehensive approach to how one should live his life while here on earth. It requires humility, courage, patience and the ability to quench human appetites and replace them with divine aspirations. Some readers have divided it into five parts: the Beatitudes, new laws, The Lord’s Prayer, money and warnings. This writer will seek to answer the questions above, which largely focus on three areas, The Beatitudes, The Lord’s Prayer and guidelines for living with one another.
The Beatitudes and What It Means To Be Blessed
“Blessed” is the key word in most of the Beatitudes, so what does it mean to be blessed? Most definitions include “to revere; to honor; to cast favor on; to consecrate; to set apart for a holy purpose.” All indicate a positive impression of, or favorable response to something or someone. For our purposes, let’s concentrate on “revere” and “asking a divine favor for.” While we will not include all of the Beatitudes, but focus on the more commonly used ones to gain an understanding of the message Jesus was espousing then, as well as now.
The Scriptures say that when he saw the multitudes, he went up into the mountains. Was he trying to get away from them, or was he trying to reach a level of height where his voice would carry so that all could hear? I choose the latter. The first words he spoke were:
Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. For many years, I struggled with the meaning of this statement. The key to the struggle was the word “spirit.” I saw spirit as something good, and poor as something lacking or negative. So, how could one be blessed if he were lacking in spirit? I simply didn’t get it! It was not until I realized that spirit was written with a small “s” that my thought began to change. When a capital “S” is used, one can conceivably be assured the word refers to God. However, the small “s” can be one or the other, depending on the way it is used in the text. In this instance Jesus is saying, “Only those people who turn away from the ways of the world–those who lack evil spirits, will be honored or have favor cast upon them, and that favor is the acquiring of an inner peace or a sense of harmony. So, if the acquisition of material things is one’s motive for doing things, he possesses a “poor spirit” and will never acquire peace. Why? Because as soon as he acquires one material thing, his heart will desire another, and he will never be satisfied.
Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted. Most individuals do not perceive mourning as a blessing, but find it rewarding to know that when and if they do mourn, comfort is assured. Mourning expresses sorrow or grief, and occurs most deeply when one experiences the loss of a loved one. Why does Jesus consider mourning a blessing? As I pondered this question, it became clearer that since no one likes to feel deep pain and suffering, he will seek relief from it. In many cases, this leads to spiritual enlightenment and moves one to higher levels of thought. In so doing, he achieves spiritual growth and a greater understanding of God. This indeed is a blessing! Spiritual growth brings comfort because it gives a better understanding of Life–life that is eternal and not temporal.
Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth. This meekness is not spineless or submissive, but denotes patience, humility, slowness of anger and great inner strength. It takes courage to be humble–not humbling oneself before man, but before God. A noted attribute of humility is lack of human will–surrendering to the will of God. Can one ever not be blessed when he follows the path that God has laid out for him? Jesus says the reward for meekness in to “inherit the earth.” This inheritance is a gift from God–a gift that enables one to have dominion over the earth. Jesus possessed such dominion and so can we, but are we willing to pay the price of meekness?
Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled. If you want to be righteous, you have to hunger and thirst after it. How do you do that? By having a burning desire so strong that you place nothing else before it. It takes hold of your consciousness and does not let go until it is complete, whole. There may be many sacrifices before this completeness is achieved, but whatever the price, you are willing to pay it, for you recognize that the reward is a consciousness filled with the Holy Ghost–the Christ. It is a feeling like nothing else! Jesus knew this feeling, That is why he paid the price by carrying the cross. Mary Baker Eddy paid the price through ridicule, criticism and human suffering. Each of us will walk in their shoes, to the extent we hunger and thirst after righteousness. Are you ready to do so?
Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God. This is the most misunderstood of all the Beatitudes. First of all, what is a pure heart? How do you get one? A pure heart is an inner consciousness that is free of the perils of sin, sickness and death. In that moment or hour, sin, sickness and death have no reality for the person because he is connected with God–at one with God as Jesus put it. At a human level, he may know they exist, but their power to cause pain, suffering , decay and destruction have no existence for him.
When my daughter passed away from a medical diagnosis of breast cancer, I grieved for two years. But during that period, I actively sought a clearer understanding of life–Life as God. When I achieved that, (when my heart was purified) the grief disappeared. I knew her physical body had passed away, but her divine nature lived, for it is eternal. I saw the godliness of her, so what was there to be sorry about?
Jesus is telling the disciples and the multitudes that favor will be cast upon them only when they purify their inner selves, and through this process of purification, they will gain a higher understanding of God–see God. God is only seen when evil is erased from thought.
Each beatitude should be looked at in this way, studied and pondered until you gain a greater understanding of its meaning. In so doing, you will discover that they are the blueprint for receiving a blessing. Each beatitude is two-fold. First, it gives the seeker a job to do, and secondly it says, if you do it, this is your reward. Another way of saying the same thing is, “If you want to wear the crown, you must first carry the cross.”
Some people believe they are blessed when they receive material things. A material item is just that–a material item. It has no spiritual significance. A blessing is a divine activity. Later, one may see the results of this divine activity in a human experience or condition, but spirituality must precede such action. This is the essence of the Beatitudes–to emphasize spirituality over materiality–using good to overcome evil, and life to erase death. One cannot climb the mountain of grace and mercy, while holding on to the valley of arrogance and persecution. In order to walk in the footsteps of Jesus, each person must fill his own shoes with love, compassion and humility. There is no other way. Jesus is “the way,” but every person must stay in the pathway–by himself.
Learning to Live with One Another
The Sermon on the Mount is the foundation of man’s ability to live with his fellow man. The basis of this ability can be found in the following statements:
- Whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause, shall be in danger of the judgment.
- Thou shalt not commit adultery.
- Whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart.
- Ye have heard that it hath been said, An eye for and eye, and a tooth for a tooth: But I say unto you, That ye resist not evil: But whosoever smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also.
- Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you.
- Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.
- When thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut the door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly.
These are strong statements of love, human sacrifice, divine committment and devotion to the one God. Who is ready to live them day-by-day, hour-by-hour? How do you love the person who persecutes you? You don’t love the person persecuting you, you love the person instead of the one persecuting you. Who is that person? The one that God created–the one made in His image and likeness–the perfect man. Seeing that man at the moment of persecution, takes courage, love, inner strength and a knowledge of the perfect man. It is not easy being a Christian, but it is rewarding. Sometimes those rewards are far beyond the moments that one is being “despitefully used,” but they never cease to come–however, not always in this world. Two words define this experience–faith and long-suffering. Again, I ask, “Are you ready?”
The Lord’s Prayer
The highest prayer is not one of faith merely; it is demonstration.
Mary Baker Eddy
The Lord’s Prayer is the prayer that Jesus gave to his disciples, and is believed by many to be a prayer that meets every human need. Is this true or false?
The first sentence informs us that not only did Jesus consider God his Father, but ours also. What more could one want besides having God as a Parent–a Parent who not only knows what we need, but also can supply it? There is nothing God cannot do! This statement alone, will meet every human need.
Thy kingdom come. What did Jesus mean by this statement? What is a kingdom? The answer lies in another one of his statements: “The kingdom of heaven is within you.” He is saying, “Your kingdom, your divine consciousness is right here, right now. Look no further.” The problem is mankind does not believe that, so it looks for it somewhere else. This kingdom is a gift from God and God does not give it, and then take it back. It is always present. Being aware of this knowledge and availing oneself of it, is a blessing. There is no place where God is not present because he is omnipresent–only a thought away. Try it, it does work.
The third line of the Prayer reminds us that not only is God present when things are going great–”in heaven,” but when they are not, “in earth.” God’s desire is always to provide goodness, love and mercy to His children. He is Love, thus, knows only love. It is we who separate ourselves from God, through human will and evil thoughts–thus bringing into our experience evil actions and conditions.
Give us this day our daily bread. I see bread as truth, the answer to all error. Therefore, if we are cognizant of the true nature of God and the true nature of the man He created, we will mentally hear everything that we need to think, say and do. God speaks to the human consciousness through the presence of the Christ–the Holy Ghost. We just have to listen . . . and obey.
And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. To forgive means to destroy mentally, evil thoughts that lead to evil actions. A debt is something that we owe. Thus, we are indebted to God when we separate ourselves from Him, and this debt is paid when we cast evil thoughts out of consciousness and follow His direction. Only then, is the debt paid. We forgive our debtors (those whom we feel owe us something) by recognizing that if God created everything and everyone, no one owes use anything, for we are all children of God. This frees the so-called debtor from all debts. Mary Baker Eddy says it this way: “Love is reflected in love” (Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, p. 17). God, Love is expressed when we express love ourselves. In the presence of Love, there are no debts or obligations.
The Prayer goes on to say that God never leads us into temptation. What would God profit by doing so? Nothing! God is Love, and because He is Love, he guides us away from evil–sin, sickness and death. He lets us know that He is also Life, and if He is Life and created all life, there is no death. Death is what humans experience, not children of God. His children are eternal, not temporal. One can comprehend how complete this prayer is. It covers all evil, which is fear, ignorance, sin, sickness and death. There is no evil that does not fit into one of these categories.
For Thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever. God is everywhere and with everyone. He is supreme. There is no power greater than Himself, and not only can we rejoice in this knowledge here and now, but . . . forever. This is a prayer that meets every human need. Do you agree?
Man is made-up of thoughts, and these thoughts can be human or divine. We can choose the inspiration and wonder of the Sermon on the Mount, or the beliefs of mankind. The thoughts we choose determine whether we live in harmony or disharmony, practice love or hate, and demonstrate perfection or imperfection. The choice is ours. But Jesus lets us know that we can be “perfect even as (our) Father which is in heaven is perfect.” This precludes the idea that man is born in sin and must repent from those sins. We are born children of God, and when we remove the dust of sin, sickness and death from our eyes, we can see ourselves that way. Life is eternal, and death is an illusion. Discovering this understanding takes persistence, perseverance and patience, but we can get there. Let us begin by exploring the wonders of the Sermon on the Mount, living according to the Ten Commandments and using the Lord’s Prayer to meet our every need.
The Lord’s Prayer: