We are probably all familiar with the word “blessed” (#blessed!). We know what it means: consecrated; sacred; holy; bringing happiness and thankfulness. But have you heard of the word Toowayhon (pronounced like a sassy teenager saying “two way hun!”)? I came across this word and its meaning whilst doing some research on the Beatitudes (which is the topic for the next few blogs), and it has literally changed how I read them.
Toowayhon is an Aramaic word (Aramaic being the native language of Galilee where Jesus was from) meaning enriched, happy, delighted, blissful, content. It is so much more than our word “blessed”. It signifies great happiness, prosperity, abundant goodness, delight…bliss! It is also the capacity to enjoy union and communion with God. If you change the start of each of the Beatitude verses, and use toowayhon, instead of “blessed”, it changes the power and the emphasis of each one. For example “blessed are the poor in spirit, …” could be read as “enriched and full of great happiness are those who are poor in spirit…”. To me that packs way more of a punch.
So, whilst I explore the Beatitudes, I will be doing so in light of the word toowayhon.
We find the Beatitudes in Matthew 5: 3 – 12. It sets out a series of 8 ideals that focus on love and humility, and echo Jesus’ teaching on spirituality and compassion. They are less a set of rules, rather more an outline of the attitudes a follower of Jesus should try to emulate.
The first Beatitude is “blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven”.
We’ve already talked about what “blessed” means, but what about “poor in spirit”? What does that mean? The Passion translation writes this verse as “what wealth is offered to you when you feel your spiritual poverty! For there is no charge to enter the realm of Heaven’s Kingdom”. It’s not talking about monetary value. Rather, it’s talking about humility; about being humble; about that old Matt Redman song “it’s all about you, Jesus!”. It’s talking about realising and accepting that in order to truly accomplish anything, we are required to be totally dependent on God.
Philippians 4:13 says “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” – through Christ who strengthens, not “through my own greatness”. Stepping down off our own pedestal can feel humiliating; embarrassing, but it’s so necessary. And we are in the best position because we have a God who loves us and will forgive us when we do so. James 4:6 says “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble”. We must not be self-satisfied or proud in our hearts, thinking we don’t really need God. God cannot bless us if we are proud.
Humility means seeing yourself as you are and taking action to change. It involves coming before God and apologising for all the times we have made ourselves paper crowns, taken control, taken undeserved credit, made it all about us. It’s about realising where we’ve messed up, and being truly sorry about it all. Quite often we can just be sorry when we get caught out. This is not what it’s talking about here. We need to be sorry for the actual act, and not just that we’ve been caught. We must realise it’s not us who saves ourselves. We need God.
The kingdom of heaven is promised to those who have this reliance on Jesus. We often think that we are ok, and have a route to the heaven because we are kind, or do good deeds, recycle our plastic and take care of animals. But, we need to realise that we have nothing in ourselves to do any of these things in our own strength. I can’t follow Christ on my own. I can’t love my neighbour. I can’t love my enemies. I can’t keep my word…I can’t do anything. I need Christ for this!
I like The Message translation of this passage: “you’re blessed when you’re at the end of your rope. With less of you, there is more of God and his rule”. It’s so true! As soon as we stop with the self-importance, there is more space for God to be with us and guide us.
Romans 15:13 says “Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit”. When we put God in the driving seat, and trust that he knows what he’s doing (because he does), we can find a comfort and a hope that we can never find when we take the keys! Psalm 144:15 says “What bliss we experience when these blessings fall! The people who love and serve God will be happy indeed”
Maybe, then, another way to say this verse is “delighted are those who have surrendered completely to God and trust only in Him, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven”.
This is an ongoing challenge, and one I know I will probably always need to come back to. My question to you (and me!) is, what paper crown are you wearing today that you should probably take off?