The Beatitudes in Matthew 5:3-5
What is the meaning of brokenness? For most people, being broken is the result of negative circumstances and tragedy. It’s hitting rock bottom.
But there are, in fact, two types of brokenness: the first can be a mental, emotional, and even physical brokenness as a result of suffering. The second is a blessing and calling for all who choose to follow Jesus.
The Christian View of Brokenness
Christians often confuse these two types of brokenness. Brokenness, to many people is seen as one and the same – the impact of something bad in a person’s life. The difference for the Christian is that they know God will turn the bad into good – and so there is a “beauty in the broken”.
Romans 8:28 says, “And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.” (NLT)
Yes, the Christian can still rejoice in suffering. This is a biblical promise that we can hold onto. But Christians often don’t realize that this is not the only kind of brokenness mentioned in the Bible.
Many Christians believe that brokenness is a temporary condition that many, if not all of us, must endure before we can go on to receive blessing and abundance. It’s not an end, but a necessary means to an end – the blessing. When we experience brokenness, we look forward to the hope of something better! And we consider it good fortune to not have to experience brokenness at all!
But brokenness in the Bible is not simply something we must endure. It is the blessing, and it is also our calling as Christians!
God Calls Us to Brokenness, Not the American Dream
If we are honest, we all (on some level) prioritize security – especially financial security. It’s our human nature. We all, to some extent, worry about our futures and want to provide security and comfort for our families. It’s the American dream! Countries are ranked by quality of living; we all dream of living a better life.
But the American dream is really the opposite of God’s dream for us. We often have a backwards view of God’s calling on our lives, and part of this is due to our misunderstanding of the meaning of brokenness.
What is Brokenness in the Bible?
How can brokenness be a blessing? Well, the best way to understand this is to take a closer look at Jesus’ own words in his Sermon on the Mount and The Beatitudes.
Matthew 5:3-5 says this:
“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. Blessed are the meek for they will inherit the earth.” (NIV)
Many people misinterpret these words of Jesus to be about justice and equity, that those who suffer in this life will receive blessing in the next. These words are often used to comfort people who have lost a loved one because “those who mourn will be comforted”.
But have you stopped to wonder why someone who is simply poor, or someone who mourns a lost loved one, deserves a special blessing from God?
These two kinds of people Jesus speaks of are “broken”, but is it as a result of tragic circumstances, or is Jesus speaking about something else entirely?
The Meaning of Brokeness
I used to think that the beatitudes were blessings for special kinds of suffering. But when you look at the Sermon on the Mount as a whole, and see where Jesus was going with the Beatitudes, his words take on an entirely new meaning.
Jesus is speaking of the steps a person must take to become a true follower of Christ – becoming broken. Notice that each step of brokenness is related to a blessing. But the blessing isn’t rewarded because we have experienced brokenness. Brokenness is the blessing!
The First Step of Brokenness
The first step of spiritual brokenness is to realize that we are poor in spirit. In other words, we must first come to the realization and acceptance that we are spiritually bankrupt – depraved.
We cannot accept God’s gift of salvation, thinking highly of ourselves, or even that we aren’t all that bad. But this realization of spiritual bankruptcy is not a negative experience; it is a blessing because without this first step we could never experience the opposite: being spiritually alive.
As fallen people, we are blind to sin, and we seek to elevate ourselves. We deny our need for a Savior because we believe we can save ourselves. But in this first step, our eyes are opened, and we realize our need for Jesus. For those of us who come to this realization, this is the greatest blessing of all.
The Second Step of Brokenness
The second step of brokenness is closely linked to the first. After realizing our spiritual bankruptcy, we must mourn, or grieve, over our sinfulness. To have a true heart repentance, it requires actual grief over our own wickedness.
Though that grief lessens with time, if you’ve never suffered heartache over the person you once were, it might be an indication that you have never truly come to terms with your sinfulness and depravity.
Satan can deceive us into believing that we aren’t that “bad”. And though we might say the words and accept Jesus as our Savior, a true repentant heart is one that grieves over the evil that resided there.
Salvation is not just a decision to follow Jesus. It requires repentance, which is a change of heart, and then follow Jesus.
The Third Step of Brokenness
The third step of brokenness is how we must follow and live like Jesus. The world might see this kind of lifestyle as “broken” but Jesus defines it as a blessing.
“Blessed are the meek for they shall inherit the earth” (NIV).
Meekness means to be gentle, humble, and submissive. Other definitions I’ve found are docile, overly compliant, spiritless, and tame. These don’t sound all that impressive, do they? Meekness is not a quality admired by the rest of the world.
Jesus calls for us to be meek and this is, in part, what it means to be broken because it requires us to break away from our sinful nature that wants to fight against being meek.
But meekness is not weakness! In fact, it takes a lot of strength and will power to be meek. For a Christian to be gentle, humble, and submissive in the face of adversity, it is incredibly difficult – if not impossible – without the help of the Holy Spirit.
This step takes time and maturity in Christ, but to achieve it is an enormous blessing!
The American Dream
We all want security and comfort. Seeking these things is part of being human and it really speaks to our realization of how fragile we truly are. Mankind wants to be powerful and indestructible, but our anxiety and worry about the future really highlights the knowledge that we are finite and fragile.
In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus also says this:
“So don’t worry about these things, saying ‘What will we eat? What will we drink? What will we wear?’ These things dominate the thoughts of unbelievers, but your heavenly Father already knows all your needs. Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need.” Matthew 6:31-33 (NLT)
Jesus is calling us to a life of brokenness – or at least brokenness in the eyes of this world – and God will take care of the rest.
Characteristics of Brokenness
Seeking God’s kingdom requires brokenness. But this is the “beauty in the broken” because we get to experience a taste of the life God created us for.
Spiritually brokenness is about breaking free from our old sinful nature and becoming more like Jesus. We must never forget what we were saved from: spiritual depravity ad bankruptcy. Mourning our sin – even as we continue to sin – is important in realizing repentance. We should be careful not to become tolerant of sin and we should always experience grief over our sin.
Following Jesus requires living a life of brokenness – of breaking our will to follow God’s will.
Its easy to get caught up in a backwards version of the Sermon on the Mount: seeking security and comfort and then seeking God’s Kingdom.
Brokenness is something we must embrace daily, so that we can wholeheartedly seek God’s Kingdom above all else.
The Blessing of Humility by Jerry Bridges. We all admire humility when we see it. But how do we practice it? How does humility – the foundational virtue of the Christian life – become a normal part of our everyday lives? The Beatitudes is a series of blessings from Jesus, a pattern of humility in action and this humility is itself a blessing.