Part 1: Identity
My name is Amy and I love coffee. That’s a pretty accurate statement, since I drink coffee daily. It is part of my routine, I enjoy it, and it is comforting to me.
But what if I said, “my name is Amy and I am a coffee lover”? Or someone introduced me as “Amy the coffee lover”? It sounds like a more intense relationship between myself and coffee, right? Instead of just being a person who enjoys coffee, I am now a person defined and characterized by this love of coffee.
In the first introduction the verb is “love”, which is an action-verb. I choose to act in a way that shows I love coffee. In the second introduction the verb is “am”, which is a state of being. It’s an identity. I am identifying myself as a coffee lover. It is who I am. The third introduction uses “the”, which is also a way to show an identity. It is how I am perceived by others.
In history, Alexander the Great is remembered as being “great”! He is not Alexander Who Also Had Some Greatness. Being “the Great” is his historical identity and it distinguishes him from every other Alexander I’ve ever heard of. To be called “the something” is a big deal, but not always good. If my identity was Amy the Lazy, that’s not very flattering.
It occurs to me that the way Jesus taught the Beatitudes was significant because he used “the” to describe these blessed people. He didn’t say “Blessed are the people who have meekness”, He said “Blessed are THE meek”. The people identified by their meekness are those that are blessed, not people who just exhibit the characteristic occasionally.
As we go through this study, keep in mind that we want our hearts to be transformed at a deeper level than just understanding. We want to learn to exhibit these characteristics to the point where they are a noticeable part of our Christian walk.
Part 2: Wisdom
I mentioned last week that I believe that the Beatitudes are not only a description of blessing, but also a source of wisdom. The characteristics (poor in spirit, those who mourn, meek, hunger and thirst for righteousness, merciful, pure in heart, peacemakers, and persecuted) are mentioned throughout scripture, so we can glean wisdom simply through the study of them. Here is a very striking occurrence of this, found in James 3:
Who is wise and understanding among you? Let them show it by their good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom. 14 But if you harbor bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast about it or deny the truth. 15 Such “wisdom” does not come down from heaven but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. 16 For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice.
17 But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. 18 Peacemakers who sow in peace reap a harvest of righteousness.James 3:13-18
Verses 17 and 18 are especially significant because if we look at the list of things that wisdom is, and then we look over at the list of the Beatitudes, there is a lot of overlap! Some words are not exact, but rather synonyms (like meek and submissive). But it is very interesting how the characteristics of wisdom are also the characteristics of those who are blessed.
For example, wisdom is full of mercy and “blessed are the merciful”. We can therefore come to the conclusion that becoming merciful is also a means to becoming wise. If you are seeking wisdom, then be merciful.
Another interesting example is that James says wisdom loves peace, and that if you are sowing peace you will reap righteousness. That’s great for someone who is hungering and thirsting for righteousness! If they want to find that righteousness then they should seek peace-loving wisdom!
And what about the pure in heart? James says that the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure! Jesus says that the pure in heart will see God, who is obviously the source of heavenly wisdom. So if we are pure in heart, not only are we blessed—per Jesus’ teachings—we are also able to see wisdom.
To think and pray about this week:
- What parts of your character would people choose to label you with? How would you label yourself? Do they match because you present an honest version of yourself, or have you created a false public identity for the sake of pleasing people?
- Would you prefer to be described differently? What “the” do you want to be known as?
- Is there anything in the James 3 passage that particularly stands out to you in this season of life?
As you pray this week, ask God for wisdom in your identity. Allow Him to show you who you are as His creation, and be humble to accept correction where it is needed. Pray for guidance in seeking heavenly wisdom in all things.
Dear Lord, thank you for this study. Thank you that we can explore your Word together and meditate on it. Please open our spiritual eyes to see how we can apply these scriptures to our lives. Please help us remain focused on you and not ourselves as we seek to honor and glorify you with our obedience. In Jesus’ Name, Amen!