CMC Eps 13 – MATTHEW 5: 6 – THE SECRET OF HAPPINESS
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Hi.. I’m Gene Ort.. and you’re listening to the common man commentary.
This is podcast #13.. We will be looking at MATTHEW 5:6
The title for this podcast is: “ The secret of happiness ”
We are still sitting on the hillside overlooking the Sea of Galilee. Jesus is teaching those who were willing to climb the hill. So far, Jesus has addressed discovering what is most valuable in life, your identity, how sometimes great personal loss can reveal hidden treasure, God is there with you, all the time.
Here is the passage for today : Matthew 5:6
“You’re blessed when you’ve worked up a good appetite for God. He’s food and drink in the best meal you’ll ever eat.”
A more traditional version of the verse says :
“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.”
Hunger.. the great common denominator of all of life. Everybody knows it. Most of the time when you say hunger, you are talking about your need for food. We need it to stay alive. We also love it. Not only does it keep us alive, but it comforts us.
One of the dominate jokes floating around on social media in this time of pandemic is how much weight people are gaining due to stress eating.
Again, Jesus starts out with paradox.. to get their attention. These people who he is addressing know all about hunger and thirst, and not just skipping a lunch here or there.
At this time in Israel’s history, Rome was the oppressive occupying force. They were extracting huge taxes from the people, and they paid it .. under threat of crucifixion. There was rarely enough food to go around. Something our western culture can barely comprehend.
According to the United Nations as of this moment, 793 million people in the world are starving. 100 million of them are suffering from severe malnutrition and risk starving to death. That’s a very sobering reality and a bit ironic as well, as last evening I was pondering my need to eat less food.
Getting back to Jesus.. he tells his students on the hillside that they will be happy and most satisfied when they hunger and thirst after something other than food and drink. This could be a hard sell and maybe a little confusing to someone who is really needing food.
What Jesus isn’t saying is people don’t need food and drink. Of course we do. It’s The Father’s design, his idea. Not only is food a necessity, its a delight.
I think the reason why Jesus is using the language of hunger and thirst is to draw our attention away from just the purely physical aspects of life. We are not one dimensional. He is saying, there is something more. But, it’s similar.
A Hunger for Righteousness.
Righteousness, what is it ? The dictionary uses these terms to describe it: goodness, virtue, uprightness, decency, integrity. A distinction between good and evil. Sound familiar ? It should. This list keeps showing up all over the New Testament. You might remember it as the fruit of the spirit from Galatians 5:22 or what to dwell on or think about in Philippians 4:8.
An alternate word for intense hunger might be craving. When Mary, my wife was pregnant, she would have these cravings.. These were not the common everyday.. i think a cookie sounds good kind of cravings .. they were a kind of.. get out of my way.. I’m going to the store now at midnight kind of cravings. Mostly fruits, vegetables and chocolate.
I’m not sure if there is any proof of this but we always wondered if these cravings might have at their root a true biological need.
Jesus is using this common circumstance of every day life as a metaphor. For us, God’s children, to thrive, we need more than food and drink. We need to apply the same kind of energy to our spiritual, internal or soul-ish lives that we do to our physical lives.
What does that look like ? The pursuit of.. goodness, virtue, uprightness, decency, integrity. Choosing good over evil.
Pursuit is an interesting word also.. it has intentionality baked into it. There is nothing passive about it. Intentionality has become a favorite concept to me in recent days. I have become aware of something a little unnerving. It is possible for me to learn about something, agree with the premise and completely ignore the practical application.
Two words: Tread. Mill.
There is something inherently different between the hunger for food and the hunger for goodness. Every few hours or so.. your body reminds you that it likes food. A few hours more and it starts to pester you like a three year old demanding a cookie. That is not true of the hunger for goodness. It has a much more subtle character. It doesn’t yell at you and throw a tantrum.
Most of us in the occupational world put in between 40 and 60 hours per week to make sure that fridge is stocked. We pile up a little savings if possible to make sure we don’t run out in case something goes wrong. Many people go to college for a very long and expensive time to guarantee they will have an ample supply of what ever they need. Jesus doesn’t tell his hill side audience that they need to eat..they have a built in system for that.. their stomachs will remind them soon enough.
But what we seem to be missing is this natural or organic craving to pursue goodness. So here is Jesus, parenting this group.
So, in two short sentences, he tells them that real happiness is going to require something more than your natural appetite can motivate you to do. Have you noticed that most advertising appeals to only one level of life. Our appetites!
We think eating is so central to our life that we created specific time categories for it.
Breakfast time, Lunch time, Dinner time, snack time… this is everyday.
Where is the parallel kind of “pursue goodness” language ? Some might say prayer time, quiet time, devotional time or Sunday service time. These are indeed all good practices and they hint at the something more that is needed idea.
With Food it’s easy to see the practical.. for it to do anything for you, you have to put it in your mouth. But hungering after goodness, virtue, uprightness, decency, integrity, how do you ingest that?
I once had a friend who’s son was gaining a lot of weight .. I asked him if he was involved in any kind of exercise .. he said, no, he hates sports.. I asked him… what does that have to do with sports? He owns a body, just like the rest of us, it needs to move or it falls out of health.
I have heard people say things like, “I don’t like to read”.. or “I don’t really care for self help stuff “.. “ meditation is for those weird mystical kinda people “.. but what I think they are really saying is they don’t want to think about their own character development.
In my own experience, i have heard myself make this excuse for my bad behavior .. “it’s just the way I am “.. somewhere in my past I picked up the idea that our character just is what it is .. clearly Jesus doesn’t think that is true.
One of the primary behavior patterns that Jesus modeled was escaping the crowds and the pressures of life to find quiet places to spend time with God alone. It makes a tremendous amount of sense. If you want to be like someone, you need to spend time with them. If you are what you eat, then you become like those who you are closest too. Over time, you pick up their character traits. You are influenced by them, and you effluence them right back. There will be a direct and identifiable consequence to who you become as a person in relation to who you spend time with.
There is also an element of depth to this. It’s not just mere time spent in proximity to someone that counts, it’s the level of intimacy that is entered into. If you are wanting the goodness of God to begin to permeate your person, you are going to need to get close. There are somethings that God wants to give us that can only be shared when we get close enough to take His hand. This is mirrored in the most intimate of human relationships. Intimate closeness requires commitment, and God is never fooled.
Apparently there is a choice to be made. Happiness and satisfaction is the result of the pursuit of kindness, one of the synonyms of goodness. Which then by default, the absence of the pursuit of kindness would equal sadness and dissatisfaction.
So, doing nothing with Jesus’s instruction has a predefined outcome. A consequence. Now it’s beginning to seem a lot more like missing a few meals.. As food is to the body, goodness is to the soul.
Physical starvation has an outcome… I remember a starving young girl I met in India. Her hair was orange and she was bone thin. A couple years later, after good food had been provided, her hair was thick and a robust black, she had filled out and was healthy and happy.
The parallel of goodness is true as well. When the selfish soul has changed and been nourished by the closeness of God, their kindness, forgiveness, generousity and happiness blossoms.
I thought it might be interesting to see what the internet had to say about “ HOW TO BE A GOOD PERSON “. Here is a little summary.
#1. Determine what being a good person is.
#2. Choose a role Model.
#3. Stop Comparing yourself to others.
#4. Love yourself
#5. Be authentic to yourself
#6. Pray or meditate
#7. Make small changes
#8. Make a list, review your goals
#9. Choose to be positive
#10. Do a kindness or charity for someone else
#11. Eliminate hurry from your life
#12. Practice forgiveness
#13. Be honest, empathetic
These are some good practical ideas. I think they can be useful in pointing you in the direction of what the actions of goodness, kindness, virtue, uprightness, decency and integrity look like.
Something I noticed about this whole passage in Matthew that many refer to as the beatitudes. Each proclamation is like a birthday present.
Here is a present .. now you go unwrap it.. This unwrapping requires a good deal of thoughtfulness, self awareness and prayer. And it wont happen automatically. You must go.. into solitude with God and get your own.
Well thats enough to think about for now..
Until next time .. I am Gene Ort and Thank you for listening to the common man commentary.
I’D LIKE TO LEAVE YOU WITH This “ blessing :
Love God. Love Yourself. Love the next person He puts in front of you.