Christ The Teacher: The Beatitudes And The Woes

Often, Jesus’s teachings presented a truth that is quite the opposite to the conventional wisdom, a truth based in paradox.

A paradox is something different from what it appears to be.

The beatitudes and the woes — or as we’d say today, the blessings and the curses — are some of these truths which challenge our normal ways of seeing.

We are familiar with the eight beatitudes with which Jesus begins his Sermon on the Mount in Matthew’s Gospel. These beatitudes are, in Jesus’s thinking, a formula for the righteous life, life in the kingdom of heaven, and they challenge life as normally imagined.

Luke has a different arrangement: he lists four beatitudes and four woes. Unlike Matthew, Luke speaks of the material conditions of life – poverty, hunger, sorrow and persecution, all that doesn’t make life worth living. Paradoxically, it is this that is blessed !

The paradox consists in this, that life is blessed not because of good fortune or misfortune, not for what appears nice or ugly, attractive or repulsive, but solely because of one’s relationship with Jesus and his values.

Our bonding with Jesus will transform our lives in spite of material deprivation, and bring us happiness, blessings beyond imagining. Put in other words, “Seek first the kingdom of God and its righteousness, and all these things will be given to you.”

The conventional wisdom tells us to go out in search of fun and pleasure, good food and entertainment; comfort, fame and flattery, and to avoid persecution. But Jesus warns that such seeking is usually deceptive and invariably brings curses and misfortune in its wake. This why those who seek such pleasures are doomed. The disciple is warned to be careful.

Jesus’s teachings are full of paradoxes. This is because God’s ways are not like ours. His blessings are found in the unlikeliest of places, and his words stand our clever sayings on their head.

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