Made Happy by God
“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.”
- Matthew 5:8
At the root of each of the eight beatitudes, or declarations of blessedness proclaimed by Jesus, is humility. And, what is humility?
John Dickson, a professor in the Department of Ancient History at Macquarie University in Sydney, Australia, defines humility as, “the noble choice to forgo your status, deploy your resources and use your influence for the good of others before yourself.”
This is a good definition of an important virtue, especially in the life of those who desire to walk humbly before God and live the abundant life Jesus Christ invites people to live.
And yet, Professor Dickson’s good definition of humility is limited in that it focuses only on the relationship of one human being in relation to another, or others. The humility running through each of the beatitudes runs deeper, having less to do with our attitude towards our fellow human beings than it does our disposition before God.
While the result of humility will be the desire to serve the needs of others before ourselves, the cause of this attitude of the heart rests in our relationship to God.
As we “make ourselves small” before God, not in a demeaning or diminishing sort of way, but in the sense of accurately viewing ourselves before a Holy God who is beyond our comprehension and well beyond our control, we are “made happy by God.”
This divine happiness is a byproduct of a humble heart and cannot be purchased, artificially produced or conjured up through human striving. Rather, the divine happiness Jesus refers to in the beatitudes is a gift of God given to those whose desire is to empty themselves of the need to be adored or inordinately praised by others as a means of self-justification.
A wonderful example of this process of gaining divine happiness is English reformer William Wilberforce, who said that before his spiritual rebirth on Easter Day in 1786, his “own distinction was (his) darling object.”
After his rebirth, Wilberforce set aside his life of self-aggrandizement with its incessant socializing related to politicking and the endless dinner parties, which he believed were full of “vain and useless conversation,” for the life of a “serious” Christian.
The result of Wilberforce’s renewed heart and perspective was a life devoted to causes surely close to God’s own heart, namely, the freedom of men from oppression and slavery of every kind. As a member of British Parliament, Wilberforce was in a unique position to influence public life, thus he determined that he “would never rest until he had effected (slavery’s) abolition.”
Although Wilberforce battled bouts of debilitating illness throughout the course of his adult life, he proved to be a persistent and effective politician whose antislavery efforts led to the eventual abolition of the slave trade in the British Empire in 1807.
From the outside looking in, those who do not know the love of Jesus Christ, and are thus unfamiliar with the selfless desire to live wholly on the behalf of Christ, may mistake godly humility as weakness.
To be sure, the seemingly impossible standard of selfless living set by Jesus in the beatitudes can lead to mistreatment by others. The world is not always kind to those who show mercy in the face of judgement or kindness in the face of hatred.
Yet, those who strive to live by God’s standards can be comforted by the Lord’s assurance that a “reward in heaven” awaits those who have lived sacrificially on behalf of others and in the name of Jesus Christ.