Let's Study the Beatitudes! Part 10, Our Response
As we come to the conclusion of our study on the beatitudes it will be good to ask, how we should respond? What are we expected to do about this set of familiar blessings? Certainly these blessings are part of a larger sermon and so should be viewed in that light. For example, just as the sermon opens with these blessings, the sermon closes with a series of curses in seventh chapter. However, before pitching the hearer into the body of the sermon which is enclosed by the phrase “the law and the prophets” (5:17 and 7:12) Jesus does give a little application to these blessings, which is found in Matthew 5:11-16.
For example, in verse 11, he tells us what to expect. He says to his hearers, “Blessed are you when other revile and persecute you.” Believers will be persecuted. That’s the short of it. That’s what you can expect. Jesus will say in Matthew 10:24, “A disciple is not above his teacher, nor a slave above his master. It is enough for the disciple that he become like his teacher.” There are a variety of texts we could quote at this point, not the least of which is Second Timothy 3:12, “Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.” This is what the believer is to expect as a real possibility.
Second, Jesus tells us how to respond in verses 11-12 and there are three parts to this response. First, we are to remember that it is not about us. Perhaps you grew up in a house wherein your mother reminded you, “It’s not about you!” This is that same counsel. But if not us, then who is it about? Jesus, of course. Notice, we will be persecuted on his account. Second, though we are unprofitable servants only doing that which is our duty to do, God is a kind Father who rewards our faithfulness. In fact, our reward is great in heaven, he says. And third, we are not alone. They persecuted the prophets who were before us. This is wonderful counsel.
But this leads to a third practical point, our function or place in the world. Put simply, we are to be salt and light. But what are these two things? First, what is it to be salt? Often people speak of being a preservative in the world. But there is something in the text that helps our understanding. It’s the phrase “has lost its taste.” This word translated “taste” is the word from which we get our word moron. It means foolish or silly. In fact, it’s translated that way in Romans 1:22 and I Corinthians 1:20. So, we might read the text more literally as, “You are the salt of the earth, but if salt becomes foolish how shall its saltiness be restored?” Read this way it seems obvious that salt is a metaphor for wisdom, which is how Paul seems to use it in Colossians 4:6. Thus, we are to be wisdom (gospel wisdom) in the world and not the foolishness that characterizes the world.
Second, we are to be light. This is a little easier to identify. Jesus describes our light shining before men as our good deeds which give glory to God (v. 16). Thus, we are to speak gospel wisdom into the world and do deeds in keeping with God’s commandments that we might bring glory and honor to our God. This, it seems to me, is the basic application of the Beatitudes. We are to remember what to expect, we are to remember how to respond and we are to remember our purpose and function in the world. So, be salty and shine!
Jeffrey A Stivason (Ph.D. Westminster Theological Seminary) is pastor of Grace Reformed Presbyterian Church in Gibsonia, PA. He is also Professor of New Testament Studies at the Reformed Presbyterian Theological Seminary in Pittsburgh, PA. Jeff is the Senior Editor of Place for Truth (placefortruth.org) an online magazine for the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals.