by Emily Conrad
At the very end of the Gospel of John, Jesus tells Peter he’ll eventually be killed in the course of following the Lord. This difficult future must seem like more of a curse than a blessing, and on hearing it, Peter looks around, sees another disciple, and asks:
“Lord, what about him?”
Jesus replied, “If I want him to live until I come back, what concern is that of yours? You follow me!” (John 21:21b-2, NET)
I’m so much like Peter, always looking around to see who else is out there, how they’ve been blessed, and how our lives compare.
Regardless of my circumstances, I can always find plenty of people who seem better off than me.
But Jesus, who never changes, repeats to my heart the same line he spoke to Peter: What concern is that of yours?
Comparisons are hard to conquer, but I’ve recently realized that when I’m in the midst of comparing myself to others, I’m living by a false set of Beatitudes. They go something like this:
Blessed are the multi-published authors.
Blessed are the rich.
Blessed are the celebrities.
Blessed are those whose ministries don’t face roadblocks or conflict.
But a glance at the real Beatitudes shows me that I stopped too soon with each of those. When Jesus gave the Beatitudes, he explained why each group of people was so blessed. So, I pushed myself to complete those thoughts. Why did I think those groups of people had it so good? Well, the completed thoughts were pretty eye-opening… and embarrassing. But, we’ve come this far, so here’s draft 2 of the fake Beatitudes:
Blessed are the multi-published authors, for lots of people love their work and they earn more.
Blessed are the rich, for they can buy the lavish lifestyle I wish I had.
Blessed are the celebrities, for they get recognition and interest from the masses.
Blessed are those whose ministries don’t face roadblocks or conflict, for their lives will be happy and easy as they serve God.
With all that spelled out, I could see the shallow joy I was longing for. When it comes down to it, those things are so much less fulfilling than the promises that accompany the real Beatitudes:
“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to them.
“Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.
“Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.
“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be satisfied.
“Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.
“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.
“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called the children of God.
“Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to them.
“Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you and say all kinds of evil things about you falsely on account of me. Rejoice and be glad because your reward is great in heaven, for they persecuted the prophets before you in the same way.” (Matthew 5:3-12, NET)
Many of those Jesus declared blessed aren’t those we’d look at and call blessed by human standards. We’re not likely to be jealous of them. They’ve seen hardship. Their work is difficult. They are persecuted.
And yet, they are blessed beyond belief.
Do I want riches on earth or to see God? I’ll take God, thanks. Do I want to be liked by the masses or comforted? I’ll take comfort, please. Would I choose an easy earthly ministry over gaining the kingdom of heaven? Kingdom of heaven any day!
So I can’t live by false Beatitudes based on earthly comparisons. Living by the real ones, another person’s earthly success shouldn’t cause me a moment’s doubt or envy or hesitation because that’s no longer the kind of success I’m after.
To get beauty for ashes, we must start with ashes. To be perfected in trials, we first must face trials.
God truly does have good plans for each of his followers, plans to give us a future and a hope. When we’re secure in that knowledge, comparison falls by the wayside. Regardless of anyone else’s journey, a beautiful inheritance awaits. The boundary lines have fallen in pleasant places, encompassing the only things that really matter: mercy, grace, peace with God, love, adoption as sons and daughters.
Is there a false beatitude that seeps into your thinking sometimes?