A teacher began drawing huge crowds, so he climbed a hillside. Those who were committed to him, climbed also. Arriving at a quiet place, he sat down and taught his companions, and this is some of what he said:
You’re blessed when you’re at the end of your rope. With less of you there can be more of what makes us the very best we can be.
You’re blessed when you feel you’ve lost what is most dear to you. Only then can you be comforted by what is truly important.
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 strong appetite for good. Goodness is what can truly nourish you.
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 Good 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 special place in the world.
You’re blessed when your commitment to truth provokes persecution. The persecution will drive you even deeper into understanding.
Not only that—count yourselves blessed every time people put you down or throw you out or speak lies about you to discredit the truth. 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, it is good for them! Know that you are in good company. Prophets and witnesses have always gotten into this kind of trouble.
Completing Universal Law
Don’t suppose for a minute that I have come to demolish earlier teachings. I’m not here to demolish but to complete. I am going to put it all together, pull it all together in a vast panorama. Universal Law is more real and lasting than the stars in the sky and the ground at your feet. Long after stars burn out and earth wears out, Universal Law will be alive and working.
Trivialize even the smallest item in Universal Law and you will only have trivialized yourself. But take it seriously and show the way for others, and you will find honor.
You’re familiar with the command to the ancients, ‘Do not murder.’ I’m telling you that anyone who is so much as angry with a brother or sister is guilty of murder. Carelessly call a brother ‘idiot!’ and you just might find yourself hauled into court. Thoughtlessly yell ‘stupid!’ at a sister and you are on the brink of hellfire. The simple moral fact is that words kill.
Too many of you are pretending to be righteous just because you are ‘legal.’ Please, no more pretending. You can’t use legal cover to mask a moral failure.
A Simple Guide for Behavior
Don’t pick on people, jump on their failures, criticize their faults — unless, of course, you want the same treatment. That critical spirit has a way of boomeranging. It’s easy to see a smudge on your neighbor’s face and be oblivious to the ugly sneer on your own. Do you have the nerve to say, ‘Let me wash your face for you,’ when your own face is distorted by contempt? It’s this whole traveling road-show mentality all over again, playing a holier-than-thou part instead of just living your part. Wipe that ugly sneer off your own face, and you might be fit to offer a washcloth to your neighbor.
Don’t be flip with the sacred. Don’t reduce the universe’s mysteries to slogans. In trying to be relevant, you’re only being cute and inviting sacrilege.
Ask and it will be given to you. Look for it and you will find it. Knock on a door and it will be opened for you. This isn’t a cat-and-mouse, hide-and-seek game we’re in. If your child asks for bread, do you trick him with sawdust? If he asks for fish, do you scare him with a live snake on his plate? You wouldn’t think of such a thing. Don’t you think the good you have shown to others will somehow make its way back to you?
Here is a simple, rule-of-thumb guide for behavior: Ask yourself what you want people to do for you, then grab the initiative and do it for them.
And don’t say anything you don’t mean. You only make things worse when you lay down a smoke screen of pious talk. Just say what you mean.
Love Your Enemies
Here’s another old saying that deserves a second look: ‘Eye for eye, tooth for tooth.’ Is that going to get us anywhere? Here’s what I propose: ‘Don’t hit back at all.’ If someone strikes you, stand there and take it. If someone drags you into court and sues for the shirt off your back, giftwrap your best coat and make a present of it. And if someone takes unfair advantage of you, use the occasion to practice the servant life. No more tit-for-tat stuff. Live generously.
You’re familiar with the old written law, ‘Love your friend,’ and its unwritten companion, ‘Hate your enemy.’ I’m challenging that. I’m telling you to love your enemies. Let them bring out the best in you, not the worst. When someone gives you a hard time, respond with the energies of goodwill, for then you are working out of your true selves. This is what the earth gives—the sun to warm and the rain to nourish—to everyone, regardless: the good and bad, the nice and nasty. If you simply say hello to those who greet you, do you expect a medal? Any self-righteous person can do that.
What I’m saying is, Grow up. Live out your unique identity with courage. Live generously and graciously toward others.
Reflect with Simplicity
Here’s what I want you to do: Find a quiet, secluded place so you won’t be tempted to role-play in front of others. Just be there as simply and honestly as you can manage. The focus will shift from you to what is truly important, and you will begin to sense peace and get in tune with nature.
In reflection, there is a connection between what you and what you think about. You can’t get forgiveness, without also forgiving others. If you refuse to do your part, you close the door on growing healthy relationships with others.
A Life of Service
Don’t hoard treasure down here where it gets eaten by moths and corroded by rust or—worse!—stolen by burglars. Stockpile treasure in service to others, where it’s safe from moth and rust and burglars. It’s obvious, isn’t it? The place where your treasure is, is the place you will most want to be, and end up being.
Your eyes are windows into your body. If you open your eyes wide in wonder and belief, your body fills up with light. If you live squinty-eyed in greed and distrust, your body is a dank cellar. If you pull the blinds on your windows, what a dark life you will have!
You can’t serve two masters at once, or you will end up loving one god and hating the other. Adoration of one feeds contempt for the other. You can’t serve both the Universal Law and Money.
If you decide to live a life of service, it follows that you don’t fuss about what’s on the table at mealtimes or whether the clothes in your closet are in fashion. There is far more to your life than the food you put in your stomach, more to your outer appearance than the clothes you hang on your body.
What I’m trying to do here is to get you to not be so preoccupied with getting, so you can respond to all that you have been given. Don’t worry about missing out. You’ll find all your everyday human concerns will be met.
Give your entire attention to what you are supposed to do right now, and don’t get worked up about what may or may not happen tomorrow. You will be given the help you need to deal with whatever hard things come up when the time comes.
Being and Doing
Don’t look for shortcuts to God. The market is flooded with surefire, easygoing formulas for a successful life that can be practiced in your spare time. Don’t fall for that stuff, even though crowds of people do. The way to a life of fulfillment is vigorous and will require your total devotion.
These words I speak to you are not incidental additions to your life, homeowner improvements to your standard of living. They are foundational words, words to build a life on. If you work these words into your life, you are like a smart carpenter who built his house on solid rock. Rain poured down, the river flooded, a tornado hit—but nothing moved that house. It was fixed to the rock.
But if you just use my words to impress others and don’t work them into your life, you are like a stupid carpenter who built his house on the sandy beach. When a storm rolled in and the waves came up, it collapsed like a house of cards.
When the teacher concluded his address, the crowd burst into applause. They had never heard teaching like this. It was apparent that he was living everything he was saying—quite a contrast to their political and religious teachers!
These were the excerpted teachings of Jesus from his Sermon on the Mount: Matthew, chapters 5-7. This humble interpretation was based on “The Message” version of the Holy Bible.