Your Map to Blessed Living

Your Map to Blessed Living

Part 8 of the Living Waters Series

Dear brothers & sisters,

So far in our Living Waters Series, we have discussed what Jesus taught about love for God & others, as well as what it takes to begin the journey of discipleship. What we’ve discovered so far is that everything Jesus ever taught reveals the way to love more perfectly. So now that we’ve covered some of the fundamentals, we’d like to jump right in to the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew chapters 5, 6, & 7) and make our way through each of Christ’s teachings there. We’ll be a little flexible, jumping around the rest of the four gospels where we feel led and where it seems appropriate, but for the most part, we’ll be sticking to Matthew 5-7 for the next good chunk of our Living Waters Series.

That means we’re starting with the beatitudes! The goal of our Living Waters Series is to reveal how everything Jesus said really is Good News (i.e. the Gospel), and part of that revelation is how all of his teachings show us better ways to love God, our neighbor, and each other. It may seem obvious that the beatitudes are Good News, but on closer examination, many of us (especially in first-world countries) don’t quite fit the description of those who are called blessed. Not only that, but when you really think about what Jesus is saying, it’s all very counter-intuitive!

That’s because Jesus is introducing a new Kingdom–the Kingdom of God–a new Way of life. Those who we normally think of as being blessed/privileged (e.g. citizens of first-world countries), these people are actually set at a disadvantage–according to Jesus–in entering his new Kingdom (Luke 18:24-28). Our privilege makes us comfortable, less interested in the new Way of life that Jesus teaches about. In contrast, those who are oppressed, impoverished, and suffering have an easier time seeing the Good News of Jesus’ teachings without needing to be shown by others (like what we’re doing in this series). These blessed ones are much more likely to accept Jesus’ Way of life and the Kingdom of God that his teachings herald.

However, this does not mean that those of us who were born in first-world countries cannot learn to adopt the attitudes that Jesus identifies as truly blessed. So that will be the main point that we discuss as we journey through the beatitudes together: how to live more like the beatitudes! And of course, we will continue with our usual theme of how to love God & others better using Jesus’ teachings.

The problem that often comes with some of the more familiar teachings of Jesus (as with anything that gets repeated over and over) is that we often lose sight of what it actually means. So when the meaning of a word or a phrase or a whole passage begins to break down, we need to slow down and think deeply about what it’s actually saying. That’s why we will explore each verse on its own over the next few weeks, really taking time with each line of the beatitudes to make sure we don’t miss any nuggets of wisdom from the Word of God who is Jesus (John 1:1 & 14, Revelation 19:13)! We’ll use Matthew’s version as our chronological structure, adding the parallel from Luke’s version where one exists.

But for now, we’ll just brush over the beatitudes together to get the whole picture fresh in our minds. We started practicing this slow reading with the beatitudes ourselves, and one of the things that became apparent to us is that Matthew’s version seems to be focused on the state of one’s spirit (with the possible exception of the last bit about persecution), whereas Luke’s version seems to be focused on the physical state. We’ll quote the two passages side-by-side so you can see what we mean.

Blessed are the poor in spirit,
    for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn,
    for they will be comforted.
Blessed are the meek,
    for they will inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
    for they will be filled.
Blessed are the merciful,
    for they will be shown mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart,
    for they will see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers,
    for they will be called children of God.
Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness,
    for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

Matthew 5:3-12

Blessed are you who are poor,
    for yours is the kingdom of God.
Blessed are you who hunger now,
    for you will be satisfied.
Blessed are you who weep now,
    for you will laugh.
Blessed are you when people hate you,
    when they exclude you and insult you
    and reject your name as evil,
        because of the Son of Man.
Rejoice in that day and leap for joy, because great is your reward in heaven. For that is how their ancestors treated the prophets.

Luke 6:20-23

Does this mean that one version is wrong and the other one is right? That may be a discussion better left to those who are more qualified to speculate on the historical reliability of the gospels. For us as simple disciples of Jesus, we will file this revelation away in a folder titled “Awaiting Further Light”. And in the meantime, we will take both versions as equally true. And anyway, that just feels right, doesn’t it? Jesus’ life & ministry seems to focus a lot on finding the right balance between spiritual and physical. So it would make sense for us to also focus on trying to achieve this balance between spirit & matter: both our spiritual and physical sides need to be brought into proper standing.

And that’s what the beatitudes are all about! Jesus describes for us what the most excellent state of being is. He’s telling us what kind of person is blessed, and the amazing thing is that anyone can adopt this lifestyle! Anyone can choose to develop these blessed characteristics, thus moving us all closer to that ideal of love for God & others that we first set out to accomplish at the beginning of our Living Waters Series.

Now that we’ve brushed over both versions, we’re ready to go line-by-line through the beatitudes to see what we can uncover together. So join us next week as we explore how each verse reveals a beautiful way of life which improves our ability to love God, our neighbor, and each other!

Love & Prayers,

Luke & Allie

Faith Worker Ministries

Hard Teaching, Good News: More on the God or Money Gospel

Hard Teaching, Good News: More on the God or Money Gospel

Part 7 of the Living Waters Series

Dear brothers & sisters,

Last week, we began to uncover one of the least popular and least practiced teachings of Jesus. And yet, it is also so fundamental to our walk as Christians. So, we wanted to take a second week in order to address this very important subject.

What is this teaching that we’re talking about? If you read our previous Living Waters post, then you’ll know we’re referring to what is often called the “two masters” teaching, or the “God or money” teaching.

Jesus says, “No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.”

Matthew 6:24

We explored many aspects of this teaching in our previous post: what it means for us, how it should impact and transform our lives, how this is all part of the Gospel (& repentance), and how it helps us show greater love to God, our neighbor, and each other.

But we want to take things a little further using cross-references to offer encouragement while we all continue to pray about how we can apply Jesus’ teachings to our own lives. The cross-references also show that this God or money teaching is not a proof-text, but that it is a consistent teaching all throughout Jesus’ ministry.


The first of our cross-references is actually a perfect parallel in Luke’s account: “No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money” (Luke 16:13). The fact that this teaching has been recorded twice by two different authors reveals that it had been thoroughly circulated and preserved by oral tradition & the Holy Spirit (John 14:26) during the few decades in between the cross and the actual writing of the gospel accounts. For historical documents, this proves a high level of credibility to the God or money teaching.

Now, the verse that comes immediately after is one we have always found to be an insightful and even comical addition to the battle between Jesus and the religious leaders of his day: “The Pharisees, who dearly loved their money, heard all this and scoffed at him” (Luke 16:14). There Jesus goes again, cutting right down to the root of things, and consequently, the religious people in charge get offended. Classic.

But perhaps another reason why we find this verse funny (in a not-so-funny kind of way), is because most people–especially Christians–respond to us with the same exact reaction as the Pharisees once gave to Jesus. Other translations say that the Pharisees (who loved money) ridiculed or sneered at Jesus for his teaching about the choice between working for God and working for money. Yep, that is exactly how most church-people respond even today, and that is a very scary thing, brothers and sisters.

Examine your own spirit. When you hear Jesus say that in order to show God our love, we must stop working for money (remember that “working for” is the same thing as “serving”), how do you respond? It’s okay if you don’t think you fully understand it yet or if you maybe even get a little nervous! (We as human beings often react in fear to revelation from God; e.g. Luke 2:10, Matthew 14:27) But what do you do with that fear? Do you try to overcome fear with faith in God and His Son? Or do you try to defend that fear with pride like the Pharisees did, mocking both the message and messenger–criticizing, dismissing, sneering, scoffing, ridiculing… Your reaction will reveal who your master really is.

We pray that you do not respond like the Pharisees to the divine teaching of our Lord, brothers and sisters. Let us sit humbly before Christ and let him speak into our lives, guiding us out of fear and into faith.

Eternal Sustenance

The next cross-reference to the God or money teaching is found in the Gospel according to John:

Do not work for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you.

John 6:27

Why do most of us work in jobs for pay? Isn’t it to provide food for ourselves and our families (among other things like clothing, shelter, and here in the first world, lots of “toys” to play with)? That’s why we often hear from people that the reason why they will not choose to work for God instead of money is because they are afraid that they (and their children) will starve.

While we can certainly understand the concerns that trigger this sort of response from people, we also know from personal experience that God’s will is to feed and clothe us while we work to build up His Kingdom on Earth:

Don’t worry about these things, saying, ‘What will we eat? What will we drink? What will we wear?’ These things dominate the thoughts of unbelievers, but your heavenly Father already knows all your needs. Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need.

Matthew 6:31-33

We must not forget verses like these from Matthew 6 and John 6. Jesus promises us abundance… but probably not in the exact way that we usually think of abundance.

The Abundant Life

Jesus tells us, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.”

John 10:10

Other translations reveal that Jesus is talking about a “full” life, a “satisfying” life, life “in all its fullness.” So this is not the prosperity gospel, like some people would claim. This is about the true Gospel.

But the sad truth is that when people hear Christ talk about working for God instead of money, the way they react shows that they think Jesus is the one trying to “steal and kill and destroy!” They don’t hear the Gospel, the Good News.

But reading John 10:10 again, we realize that it isn’t Jesus who is trying to “steal and kill and destroy”… It’s “the thief” (aka Satan) who does that.

So who are we listening to when we respond in anger or fear to the teachings of Jesus?

Remember, Jesus is the one who wants to give us a full and satisfying life. So when he tells us how to live our lives (like working for God instead of money), then he’s telling us how we can live more abundantly!

I Will Give You Rest

The last cross-reference that we want to share with you today is from Matthew 11.

Jesus says to us, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

Matthew 11:28-30

What a perfect way to describe the transition from working for money to working for God… So many of us can relate to the feeling of stress that comes from overbearing bosses, difficult coworkers, rude clients, aggressive deadlines, long hours, and inadequate pay. But even if we love our jobs, most of us still feel that something is missing.

And that is where the offer that Jesus is giving to us comes in, to spend our time working for the Source of All Love, trusting that He will provide for our needs (Matthew 6:24-33).

We mentioned in our previous post that working for God instead of money gives us a life of complete freedom. God empowers us to design our own schedules, choose our own projects, and the benefits are incredible… and eternal! Talk about an easy yoke!

Jesus’ teachings are never bad news, and hopefully these cross-references have helped you to better understand how the God or money teaching is just another (important) piece of his Gospel.

But the question we must all ask ourselves is, Do I have the eyes to see and the ears to hear it?

Love & Prayers,

Luke & Allie

Faith Worker Ministries