“And seeing the multitudes, He went up on a mountain, and when He was seated His disciples came to Him. Then He opened His mouth and taught them, saying: ‘Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven’” (Matthew 5:1-3).
Viktor E. Frankl, who endured the Nazi death camps and survived, stated, “Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of human freedoms - to choose one's attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one's own way”. As the opening passage above indicates, Jesus understood the importance of our choosing to have the right attitude in any given situation. As He began the Sermon on the Mount, what attitudes does Jesus think we should have (Matthew 5:1-11)?
First, Jesus teaches that we need to be “poor in spirit’ and to “mourn” (Matthew 5:3-4). In developing a proper attitude to live life, we need to understand our weaknesses. We are totally dependent upon God to save us from our sins (cf. Romans 3:23; 5:8). Throughout His sermon, Jesus stressed that a right relationship with God involves not only “doing” the right things, but also “thinking” the right thoughts. For example, it is not good enough to simply not commit murder or adultery, one must not hate their fellow man or lust after the opposite sex (Matthew 5:21-28). When we understand our own weaknesses and mourn over our own sins, only then will we reach out to God and seek His help to enable us to become all He can make us to be for His glory. Thus, we will strive to have a “pure heart” that seeks to act out of pure motives which helps us to be able to “see” God (Matthew 5:8).
Second, Christ said we must have an attitude of “meekness” (Matthew 5:5). Meekness is “strength under control”. How different this was from the attitudes of the Pharisees of Jesus’ day who, instead of displaying meekness and humility in their service to God, tried to “show off” before others their service to God in their charitable deeds (Matthew 6:1-2), prayers (Matthew 6:5), and fasting (Matthew 6:16). One who is meek is not concerned with “showing off” to please men, but is concerned only that God sees and is pleased in their service to Him (cf. Matthew 6:3-4, 6, 17-18).
Third, our Lord stressed how we need to “hunger” and “thirst” for righteousness (Matthew 5:6) even to the point of enduring persecution for trying to serve God (Matthew 5:10-12). In His sermon, Jesus spoke about the “hunger” and “thirst” people have over material things (Matthew 6:19-21). Many people allow their drive for material things to consume them and it fills them with worry (cf. Matthew 6:25-32). Jesus stressed we need to seek first His Kingdom (Matthew 6:33), be careful about following the paths our piers are choosing (Matthew 7:13-14), and to build our lives upon His teachings as we “hunger” and “thirst” for His guidance and direction in our lives (Matthew 7:21-27).
Finally, Jesus encourages us to be “merciful” in our dealings with others (Matthew 5:7). Our Lord understood how tempting it is for us to begin to look down on others and judge them while failing to consider our own weaknesses (cf. Matthew 7:1-5). A gracious and merciful attitude towards all those around us enables us to be the influence God would have us to be (Matthew 5:13-16). Thus, we can better be “peacemakers” (Matthew 5:9) and even learn to “love our enemies” (Matthew 5:44-48).
I rejoice in the guidance and direction Jesus gives me in His teachings about the attitudes I should have in my life. Today, I will strive to have a beautiful attitude by applying the “Beatitudes” to my life!
"The lamp of the body is the eye. If therefore your eye is good, your whole body will be full of light” (Matthew 6:22).