The Good Steward — Beatitudes show us how to be happy

Daniel Conway

“Blessed are the poor in spirit. Theirs is the Kingdom of God.” — (Mt 5:3; Lk 6:20)

What do we need to do to be really happy? 

When Jesus was asked this question by a wealthy young man, his initial response in the Gospel of Matthew was: “Keep the commandments.” 

But when the man said he kept the commandments but was looking for more, Jesus proposed that he observe the first Beatitude: to become poor in spirit by selling everything he owned and following Jesus. 

The Beatitudes do not replace the 10 Commandments. They fulfill them. The Commandments are God’s laws. They show us that the way to true happiness is found by loving God and loving our neighbor. They warn us that certain behaviors — including idolatry, disrespect, disobedience, lying, stealing, murder, adultery and covetousness — lead to death rather than to the fullness of life. 

The Beatitudes turn the world’s values inside out and show us a radically different way to live.  The world tells us that poverty is evil, and most of us would agree that the kind of poverty that is imposed on people through no fault of their own is a grave injustice. During his time on earth, Jesus was deeply moved by the poverty of his sisters and brothers. He did not take their deprivation for granted. He fed the hungry, clothed the naked, cured the sick and raised up those who were oppressed. Today, he commands us to do the same!

But, paradoxically, the Lord tells us that these same poor are blessed and that the Kingdom of God is theirs. What does this say to us — especially to those of us who are not poor but have all that we need to live happy, productive lives?

The first Beatitude, which praises the poor in spirit and proclaims their heavenly inheritance, is a challenge to every man and woman who seeks to follow Jesus. We are called to let go of our dependence on worldly comforts, on social status, on attempts to control the world around us. 

If we want to be truly happy, we must empty ourselves. We need to get rid of the stuff that weighs us down. Like St. Francis of Assisi, who was gripped in an utterly radical way by the first Beatitude, we must be willing to become spiritually poor in order to let our hearts be filled with the richness of God’s grace. 

The paradox of the first Beatitude is that happiness cannot be found in any of the places that the world tells us to look for it. To be happy, we must let go of our arrogant pride and open our hearts to God. 

This is not an easy task for any of us. Fortunately, we are not alone. All the saints are with us. Let’s turn to them for help and encouragement as we seek to become poor in spirit.

Dan Conway is a member of Holy Trinity Church and is a writer, consultant and stewardship educator.

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