The more I read my Bible the more convinced I’m becoming that by the standards of popular culture, God speaks gobbledygook. I simply do not speak God’s language. I may hear the words He says. I can read them in my Bible till the cows come home. But comprehending Him and His purposes is a completely different kettle of fish. More and more, I find myself being pushed by the Lord to a new comprehension of what life with Him at the centre really looks like.
Here’s just a few thoughts. I’d be interested in your reflections.
On the 20th January 1960 John F Kennedy was sworn into office as president of the United States of America and he delivered one of the most famous inaugural speeches in history. He came to power at the height of the Cold War and so setting out his vision, hopes and dreams for America and its future was of critical importance. One of his opening sentences made clear the position the world now found itself in. “The world is very different now. For man holds in his mortal hands the power to abolish all forms of human poverty and all forms of human life.”
Poignant words that set out one man’s dreams that would ultimately cost him his life.
In Matthew Chapter 5 we read of Jesus’ inaugural speech. His first public address is a wonderful read. Commonly known as the Sermon on the Mount, this was His opportunity to set out what His hopes, dreams and intentions are for humanity. (Incidentally, they also ultimately cost Him His life). We must therefore pay attention to the words that ripple off the Saviour’s lips.
His first sentence is fascinating….truly fascinating. Think about it, these are the very first public words of Jesus. And what does He say?
“Blessed are the poor, for theirs is the Kingdom of heaven”.
If we use some different words to try and communicate the fullness of the original text it could read: “Happy are those who are poor in disposition for theirs are the joys of God’s Kingdom”.
What He says makes no sense on one level – it’s gobbledygook! So if this isn’t Jesus trying to change our comprehension I’ll eat my hat! It seems that’s exactly what He’s trying to do. Is Jesus really saying that poverty is a good thing? Come on, is He or isn’t He? What does the text say? I think He’s saying just that! Of course He’s not advocating the type of poverty that JFK was concerned about. The kind of poverty that results from those who administer self-seeking and unjust economic systems at the expense of the weak and vulnerable. But, His use of language is provoking us to a different comprehension of what is of value in the Kingdom of God.
I was brought up on a Gospel that taught me that being a Christian meant God wanted to prosper me and that meant PROSPER. Poverty was considered almost evil and if I wasn’t prospering there must be sin in my life. This prosperity Gospel encouraged everyone to think BIG, to dream BIG and expect God to deliver those dreams, all of this supported by a sort of lucky dip, pick and mix theology. This type of Prosperity Gospel is rampant in parts of US and is a false Gospel.
Is this the Gospel the Son of God sets out in His inaugural speech? I don’t think it is! Read the words again – they are stunningly anti-prosperity! Jesus is actually advocating a type of poverty that enables heaven and earth to connect. He is pushing His audience to begin to comprehend the Kingdom of God in a different way by using their own language and then turning their comprehension about ‘poverty’ on its head.
I’m sure you can think of many other examples where He does exactly the same thing.
To gain life, what do you have to do? Lose it! (Matt 16:25).
Where’s the front of queue in Kingdom terms? It’s at the back! (Matt 20:16)
Before we had children’s games on tablets we had board games. One I have fond memories of was Snakes and Ladders. So, for those old enough to remember the game – In the Kingdom of God it’s the snakes that are ladders, and the ladders are the snakes. Down is the way up! (Phil 2:5-11)
I wonder if we have our feet so firmly fixed in the world’s systems without even knowing it, that we find ourselves comprehending God’s ways through the lenses this world provides. No wonder we feel so lost!
Is it time for us to ask the Lord to turn us upside down in order to fully comprehend Him and His ways? Is it time to start asking God to help us understand His apparent gobbledygook rather than trying (and failing) to decipher His word through the standards of this world?
I’d be really interested in your thoughts. Please join in the discussion on our Facebook page.
On behalf of Love Black Country.