Lucas Samonte Bib:300 T/Th Jesus’ View on Success Personal experience drastically alters the wants and needs of an individual. The region you were born will affect personal tastes, your household situation can change how to view family dynamics and roles in the home. When the concept of success is pondered everyone will have a different value of where they place what is important for them and that can change even more dramatically by generation. As the world evolves around us and technological advances make certain aspects of our lives easier and what we do with our time changes as well. Even in biblical times, individuals were misrepresenting successes with the physical or luxurious and throughout the Bible, there are countless attempts to help clear away distractions and refine our focus to what will be the true mark of success. In the Book of Matthew, there are large portions that focus on what to emphasize in your life and are some of the core disciplines of Christianity.
At the start of Matthew you have the Beatitudes, these are eight blessings from Jesus that takes traditionally negative traits and gives them strength in their future results. Each of the verses begin with blessed followed by something someone would normally not want to be associated with. Jesus is not reaching out to those who feel content in everything they have or feel they are accomplished and successful. He had surrounded himself with prostitutes, tax collectors, outcasts, and others generally considered undesirable because he is setting the example for his followers that the lowest of the hierarchy is still worthy of God. The meek, the mourners, the ones who forgive and potentially could be taken advantage of are all rewarded by God with eventual paradise. This shows how Jesus provided all of the keys to the ultimate goal, everlasting life in the LORD’s kingdom. So when you are a peacemaker, when you are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, if you are merciful you will be successful in God’s ultimate goal, the Kingdom of Heaven on Earth. While it can be hard to know for sure, these statements of lowering yourself to hopefully raise yourself later seem to be adverse to thinking at the time. You can have visions of kings clearly presenting themselves as greater than all others and people might tend to want to be the king or leader of their community. Here we have the leader saying to be like me you must also do as I do, surround yourselves with these types of people and be meek, be humble, be righteous which makes Jesus stand out from other leaders.
Jesus also explains in Matthew 5:22 that there are consequences if you do not make yourself modeling themselves after his words. To summarize, if you are angry with your brother without a true cause then you are the fool (Raca) and you will see hellfire. There are various ways of severity to look at this verse. Jesus is speaking to his followers so he could mean brothers as in followers of God and Jesus, or humanity at large. Jesus is also comparing being angry with the Commandment Thou Shall not Kill for you will receive judgment. So if you are even angry enough with another person you are just as guilty and deserve judgment. This is a logical progression, someone who easily becomes furious with another person, quick to fly off the handle could eventually get so angry that they make an unforgivable mistake. This is a lesson in controlling your temper if you wish to be successful in the aforementioned Beatitudes, success comes to those who can control their emotions and calmy make rational decisions.
An important set of verses appears in the next chapter Matthew 6:19-21, where Jesus is recount where his followers should place their treasure. To summarize the passage you should not place your treasure on Earth because they can rot or be stolen, but if you place them instead in Heaven then you none of those Earthly worries can affect the things you hold so highly. Meaning by this that there are physical treasures on Earth. Beautiful gold and jewels, clothes that hold amazing value and symbolize your wealth or greatness, but these are not the treasures you should desire. This stands out as unusual because people tended to need to accumulate treasures and wealth as the only representation of success. But your treasures should be your investments in your soul to follow the word of God, these give you the true treasure where you’re everlasting in God’s kingdom. Verse 21 states that where your treasure is your heart will be too, this is pointing out that if you spend your life accumulating treasures like cars, a big house or other worldly vices that is the only place your attention and intentions (heart) could be. If your heart is on treasures here then it could never be on God or his teachings, your attention would be taken from the ultimate success.
Turning to Matthew: 7 we find the verses 13-14, which Jesus states his summary of the Sermon on the Mount. There are only two paths in life. The paths have two gates where one that is wide and one that is narrow, one leads to damnation and one leads to salvation. The broad road is easy and straight but is ultimately the path without God’s grace, where the narrow both is bent and difficult symbolizing the effort you’ll need to give to receive a pleasant afterlife. This parable still holds true in modern life, you can take the easy route of cutting corners, making excuses and not holding yourself accountable for your actions. Though by doing this you’ll never live up to your full potential and ultimately live an unfulfilled life. If you were to take the narrow winding road of putting in effort into relationships, holding yourself responsible and living a life that helps others you will be rewarded with a happy life. Jesus is reaffirming to the crowd of his followers that he realizes everything he has just laid out for them is not easy, it will take faith and effort, but they will be eternally rewarded in due time.
Ultimately there are many concepts that Jesus is trying to emphasize for his audience, he lays out numerous directions and guides for what his followers need to prioritize in their lives, but for good reason. There is only one goal in Jesus’ mind, being accepted into the Kingdom of Heaven. So you can be successful, but your successes should not be worldly, they should be personal traits and efforts of bettering yourself through humility and righteousness. Your successes will eventually be rewarded, but only if you follow Jesus’ words like you were a crowd member during the Sermon on the Mount.