Donald Trump is right. The system is rigged. We’ve been stuck in a rigged system for a very long time. More about that in just a minute. First some background.
During this election season, I’ve been spending a lot of time asking myself the question, “What if Jesus ran for president? What would he do? What would he say?” The longest section of teaching from Jesus in the New Testament is in the Gospel of Matthew, and it’s called “The Sermon on the Mount.” I’ve been operating under the assumption that if Jesus ran for office, this would be his stump speech, and I’ve been trying to evaluate everything else I hear and see based on what Jesus says there. It’s a challenging exercise to say the least, because I don’t always like what Jesus says, it’s not always comfortable, and it doesn’t always line up with my politics. But if I say I’m first and foremost a follower of Jesus, I think what I’m called to do is lift up his vision for the world and for my life over and above any other vision.
And so, at the very beginning of his “stump speech,” what we call the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus addresses this issue, the issue of a rigged system. And rather than beat around the bush, he comes right out and says it. The system is definitely and definitively rigged.
The very first thing that Jesus does as he begins to speak is to make a series of statements about what it means to be #Blessed. I love statements that I see about being #Blessed:
Great seats at the Adele concert. #Blessed.
I am so #Blessed because of my YouTube career.
Full parking lot, but I got a spot right next to the door. #Blessed.
I got to eat Dunkin Donuts today. #Blessed.
I survived another night without being attacked by a clown. #Blessed.
However, right at the very beginning of his words about being #Blessed, Jesus makes a strange statement, and he turns our idea of being blessed on its head.
“Blessed are the poor in Spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven.”
Essentially, when Jesus says you are “blessed,” at a really basic level he means that God is with you. It means that God is on your side.
Blessed are the “poor in Spirit.” To be poor in spirit in the way Jesus says this is not a good thing. To say that someone is poor in Spirit is like saying they’re a spiritual nobody. They’re spiritually destitute. To be poor in spirit is not something that you want to be. In essence, Jesus says “Blessed are the spiritual losers.”
And so, at the very beginning of the Sermon on the Mount, the stump speech of Jesus, is this announcement:
Blessed are all those who are spiritually bankrupt, because God is with them.
Blessed are all the people who have done nothing to earn God’s blessing, because God is on their side.
Blessed are the morally inept. Blessed are the addicted. Blessed are the doubters and the haters. Blessed are the losers, the last, the lost, the least. Blessed are the last people in the world who feel #Blessed.
Nine years ago this month, my wife, Amanda, and I became parents for the first time. Any of you who’ve had newborns or been around newborns know that newborns really only do a few things: Newborns eat, sleep, poop, and cry. That pretty well sums up what newborns can do. And usually they cry because of some combination of the first three things. They’re tired because they can’t sleep because they pooped, and who can sleep in a mess of a diaper like that?
There is absolutely nothing that a newborn can do to earn their status in their parent’s eyes. There is absolutely nothing they can do to earn love. But nine years ago this month, in the moment that somebody captured in this picture, the very first time I ever held my son, I made an announcement in my heart like I’ve never made before: Regardless of what you do, I love you. I am with you. I am on your side.
The truth of the Gospel is that when God looks at each and every one of us, God is making that same announcement: No matter what happens, says God, I love you. I am with you. I am on your side.
If you feel spiritually empty, God is on your side.
If you’ve made more mistakes than you can count, God is with you.
If you feel like you’ve reached a dead end in life, the Kingdom of God is available to you.
You don’t have to earn God’s blessing. There’s nothing that you can do to increase your status in the eyes of God, it’s a free gift of Grace that you’re given. It’s a gift. The system is definitely and definitively rigged – there’s nothing you can do about it. It’s a rigged system, but it’s a system rigged in your favor.
At the beginning of his candidacy, Jesus got on his platform and he made this announcement. “The system of God is rigged toward the people who’ve done nothing to earn it or deserve it.” That’s the announcement of Jesus. What if his followers saw it as our task to share this same announcement?
We get really caught up in what politicians say and do from their platforms, but here’s the deal: Everybody has a platform, what are you saying from yours?
What would it look like if we took it upon ourselves to go to the people in our community who’ve reached a dead end, and we looked them in the eyes, and we simply said, “Our God is with you.”
We live in a world where there are a lot of announcements made. There are a lot of “announcements” made by Christians. When we watch political commentary, there are a lot of announcements. When we watch debates and stump speeches, there are a lot of announcements. The sad truth is that there are a lot of announcements made of fear, and announcements of hatred, and announcements of bigotry, and announcements of judgment.
But in his announcement, Jesus says: Blessed are the people who don’t deserve God’s blessing. I believe that we, too, have an announcement to make. I believe that the world we live in is one that desperately needs to know about the love, grace, and blessing of Jesus, and it’s not the role of political leaders running for office to make that announcement on his behalf, that responsibility falls squarely on the shoulders of his followers.
If you are a follower of Jesus, you have a platform, and you have an announcement to make: the system is rigged by the overwhelming love and grace and mercy of God, and there couldn’t be better news than that.