Middle School Beatitudes versus Jesus' Beatitudes: Hopetown Highlights

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Let me tell you why you are here.  You’re here to be salt-seasoning that brings out the God-flavors of this earth. -Matthew 5:13, MSG

We skip over salt sometimes.  We read that verse and talk so much about light.  (You know…you are the light of the world kind of stuff).  But we miss the salt…and Jesus was saying something very important when he talked about salt.  Because, you see, salt itself was very important in Biblical times.  It was valuable.  People were even paid in salt, sometimes, instead of wages.  And we all know salt still has many important purposes.  It preserves.  It disinfects.  And it especially helps everything taste better.  The funny thing is, though, you never say, “That’s great salt.”  You say “That’s great steak, or popcorn, or whatever you’ve flavored with salt.  But salt makes everything else better.  It brings out the God-flavors.  And you are called to be salt.  In fact, we’re going to use the word salt-y.  I know, I know that salt-y has a whole different meaning today.  But, Jesus talked about salt first.  And so we’re taking the phrase back.  He calls you to have purpose, to be like salt…and you being salt-y brings out something important in someone else.

I want you to know that you have a purpose...that you can be salt-y, at home, with your family, and even at school.  God has placed purpose and salt-y-ness inside of you.  In fact, I think your age group is the most important age to know that you have a purpose.  There are so many older kids who would go back to 7th-8th grade as some of the hardest times in their lives.  So many grown-ups do, too.  Do you know why?  It’s often because of the culture you live in.  It’s a particularly hard time in your life to have purpose.  So many others are not trying to be salt-seasoning.  They’re trying to protect themselves.  To make sure they have a spot.  And they hurt each other and you in the process.  Other kids your age, and grown-ups, need to hear your voice.

To illustrate this at camp, we wrote our own version of the Beatitudes.  Rather than what God says makes you happy, this is what we believe the middle school culture often says makes you happy.

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Jesus says something different.  In fact, let’s jump in on the scene in Matthew 5.  The Beatitudes are what Jesus started talking about in the salt-y conversation.  Before he ever got to that, he climbed a hillside with a group of his friends.  The Message says, “Arriving at a quiet place, he sat down and taught his climbing companions.”  

Jesus sat among them.  He sits among us.  He sits with you, even in these middle school years, and says…

“You’re blessed when you’re at the end of your rope. With less of you there is more of God and his rule.

“You’re blessed when you feel you’ve lost what is most dear to you. Only then can you be embraced by the One most dear to you.

“You’re blessed when you’re content with just who you are—no more, no less. That’s the moment you find yourselves proud owners of everything that can’t be bought.

“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.

“You’re blessed when you care. At the moment of being ‘care-full,’ you find yourselves cared for.

“You’re blessed when you get your inside world—your mind and heart—put right. Then you can see God in the outside world.

“You’re blessed when you can show people how to cooperate instead of compete or fight. That’s when you discover who you really are, and your place in God’s family.

“You’re blessed when your commitment to God provokes persecution. The persecution drives you even deeper into God’s kingdom.

“Not only that—count yourselves blessed every time people put you down or throw you out or speak lies about you to discredit me. What it means is that the truth is too close for comfort and they are uncomfortable. You can be glad when that happens—give a cheer, even!—for though they don’t like it, I do! And all heaven applauds. And know that you are in good company. My prophets and witnesses have always gotten into this kind of trouble.”

His message in Matthew 5 is kind of the opposite from middle school culture.  In fact, many people call this an upside-down message.  But, it’s the truth.  It’s how we change.  It’s how we find our purpose.  And it’s how we become the real salt-seasoning in the world.  

Let’s compare the Middle School and Jesus’ Beatitudes a little more specifically:

Middle School Beatitudes:

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“Happy are those who are in control of the rope with their friends below, for they keep all their followers.”  But, we know, in the long run, you know what happens in this situation. You live with high anxiety because you have to stay in control of everything.

Instead, Jesus says, “You’re blessed when you’re at the end of your rope.  With less of you there is more of God and his rule.”  Read Hebrews 6:18-19 for more of what that means.

In middle school, it seems like “Happy are those whose life looks perfect and without weakness, for they appear to have no pain.”  But, we know what happens there, too.  You bottle up your emotions and eventually explode…it’s just too much to try to be perfect all of the time.

Instead, Jesus says “You’re blessed when you feel you’ve lost what is most dear to you.  Only then can you be embraced by the One most dear to you.”  Read 2 Corinthians 12:9 for more.

Middle school says, “Happy are the funny, pretty, popular, athletic, attention-seeking, fill in the blank…for they win awards and get what they want.”  We know they end up falling apart with anxiety, too, because they can’t live up to the pressure.

Jesus says, “You’re blessed when you’re content with just who you are—no more, no less.  That’s the moment you find yourself proud owners of everything that can’t be bought.”  Read Philippians 4:11-12 for more.

Middle school says, “Happy are those who look chill and seem to have all the answers themselves, for nothing seems to bother them.”  But we know that when you work so hard to protect yourself, you also end up keeping others out and no one can really get close to you.

Jesus says, “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.”  Read Isaiah 55 for more.

Middle school says, “Happy are the judgmental, sarcastic and gossipy, for they’ll never be hurt (they think).”  We know that they’re only doing all of these things because of the fear they feel inside.  Other people will start to eventually see that fear, too.

Jesus says, “You’re blessed when you care.  At the moment of being ‘care-full,’ you find yourselves cared for.”  Read Colossians 4:6 for more.

Middle school says, “Happy are the socially strategic and manipulative (fake), for they will always have a spot.”  But, we know they’ll also end up being constantly insecure.

Jesus says, “You’re blessed when you get your inside world—your mind and heart—put right.  Then you can see God in the outside world.”  Read Matthew 23:25-26 for more.

Middle school says, “Happy are the instigators, drama-stirrers and cut-throat competitors, for they have all the power.”  We also know that they end up alone and often angry.  

Jesus says, “You’re blessed when you can show people how to cooperate instead of compete or fight.  That’s when you discover who you really are, and your place in God’s family.”  Read Luke 9:23-24 for more.

Middle school says, “Happy are those who have fun living on the edge and flirt with temptation, for they’ll never get caught (they think).”  But, we know they will.  And the edge will never be enough…the risks will keep getting bigger and bigger and they’ll eventually make choices that hurt them and the people they love.

Jesus says, “You’re blessed when your commitment to God provokes persecution.  The persecution drives you even deeper into God’s kingdom.”  Read 2 Corinthians 11:23-27 for more.

Middle school says, “Happy are the bystanders and followers, for they stay safe in the crowd.”  But we also know they are afraid and overwhelmed, too scared to make a difference.  They are often missed and miss out themselves on the joy of having purpose.  

Jesus says, “Not only that—count yourselves blessed every time people put you down or throw you out or speak lies about you to discredit me.  What it means is that the truth is too close for comfort and they are uncomfortable.  You can be glad when that happens—give a cheer, even!—for though they don’t like it, I do!  And all heaven applauds.  And know that you are in good company.  My prophets and witnesses have always gotten into this kind of trouble.”  Read more about God calling out Zaccheus in Luke 19.

Here are a few questions as you read through these:

1) Which middle school beatitude have you experienced the most?

2) Which of Jesus’ beatitudes do you feel reflects more of you?

3) Which beatitude is the most puzzling?

4) Which do you feel most comfortable and most un-comfortable with?

5) Which beatitude do you feel God is calling you to develop more?

Being salt-y is living the upside-down life Jesus describes in Matthew 5.  It doesn’t make a lot of sense.  Sometimes, the middle school beatitudes feel like they make more sense.  But they lead to anxiety and hurt.  Jesus’ path leads to freedom.  Purpose.  Being who we truly are.  It’s the path God calls us to, and the path where we not only find Him but who He has created us to be.

What kind of purpose to you want to have this year in school?  Other kids and grown-ups need to hear your voice.  You are just the salt they need to bring out the God-flavors inside of them.