The opening beatitudes taught by Jesus’ on the mount had such authority and brought a completely unexpected but world changing message to the onlookers. For the religious leaders the message was sharper than a double edge sword and piercing every point of defence they sought to find inside of themselves. It was frustrating them even more than for an academic reading a research article that goes against their own arguments! For those that were not so able to keep to religious standards of their time and earn the respect they supposedly needed to have, the greatest ever message of hope was coming. This is great news, fellow academics, there’s some amazing opportunities in dealing with those things we get wrong that we don’t want anyone to know about! God’s affirmations might not necessarily match up with expectations of our appraiser, our line manager or senior executives, but they’re good news.
Jesus says Blessed (i.e. made holy, consecrated) eight times and each of those eight times has something to say about the kind of work he affirms:
Blessed are poor in Spirit – This includes those doing the jobs nobody wants, those who feel bottom of the pile for taking up such a position. Yet this also includes those in high positions who are not happy, or even ashamed of where they are and what they have or have not done. But there is no judgement on anyone, there is an open invitation for every one of us to find our weaknesses and our deepest faults and God assures there will be a greater hope than ever.
Blessed are those who mourn – This includes those who are not promoted, not favoured, demoted, made redundant, deprived of any other privilege or opportunity. They will be comforted and God affirms who they are and what they do.
Blessed are the meek – To resist anger or competition can make the biggest difference ever in a workplace. To not do may result in long term ‘wounds’ amongst colleagues, yet what a challenge meekness is, even when we know we are right and we see wrong done right in front of us. Though standing against something may not bring us favour, that does not make us weak but by not seeking power and doing God’s will then he will bring us promised inheritance in his timing.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness – Many will vie for a comfortable ‘zone’ in their work that may cause a great deal of discomfort for several others. Are we conscious to pray, maybe even fast on occasions, for our workplaces instead of hiding ourselves in a comfortable corner? God hears our deepest prayers and will fill us with what we need.
Blessed are the merciful – People make mistakes, people really do wrong to one another sometimes. Forgiveness is powerful and can turn a workplace around. Not expecting apologies usually allows the apologies to come in their time. Consciousness to say sorry when we need to and at the right time matters too, which will likely bring forgiveness turns us around and brings joy in a way words cannot describe. But above that, we are affirmed by God’s grace and forgiveness.
Blessed are the pure in heart – Forgiveness and “clear air” in a workplace could not be more refreshing once it has happened. As God works in us and shows us the way towards holiness, what a greater fragrance can that bring to our workplace by seeking to be more pure like Jesus in what we do. God will affirm a pure heart in the good and bad days.
Blessed are the peacemakers – Peace not conflict, everyone will always be happier. Do we make peace by avoiding conflict, by attacking conflict or by being a team player under God’s leading to make peace? Clearly the latter is what will make peace last in the workplace. We might need to step out boldly and take risks but God affirms the actions he leads us to take trusting in him.
Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness – Who ever said your colleagues would always treat you well? Equality and diversity may be all well intentioned but it doesn’t always mean it’s plain sailing. Things go wrong when different people come together with conflicting agendas, especially where righteousness meets unrighteousness. Though to hold to righteousness God affirms is clearly right, it doesn’t mean the enemy won’t pursue after us.
In the work God affirms through these beatitudes: it’s not for earthly riches and prosperity, yet he will provide; it’s not for earthly popularity, yet he will make us whole; it’s not for earthly strength, yet he is our shield; its not for earthly stamina, yet he will give us strength; it’s not for earthly happiness, yet he will satisfy. We’ll likely be insulted, hurt, disregarded, called to unpleasant meetings, receive not very nice emails, even smeared sometimes yet Jesus says again a ninth time we are Blessed and we have an eternal reward that will be a crowning affirmation.