Character – What We Need More Of

Text: Matthew 5:1 – 12
There are some things in life that we can do with more of. Who couldn’t do with more money? Some of us have what appears to be an insatiable desire for love. We need more food and water without which we will quickly die. People value the power of God, they may value the wisdom and knowledge of God, but there is something that God wants us to value more than these and it is character. Character refers to moral or ethical strength, moral excellence and qualities of honesty, courage, integrity. God is holy and righteous and calls His people to holiness and right living. Scripture uses different words to express the standard of living that we must practice – integrity, blamelessness, righteousness, honesty are only a few of the words that are used.

The Bible tells us about the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22, 23). This fruit that is produced in us by the Holy Spirit as we yield to Him is all about character. The epistles of John emphasize the importance of truth and love: If we love others we will tell them the truth; we will tell people the truth in the spirit of love, that is, we will not tell people the truth in a spiteful, hateful and critical way, but in a spirit of genuine concern for the other person’s wellbeing. God is not simply interested in what we do, but in the person that we are becoming. In any case, godly people will do the right things. Or to state it differently, what is in your heart will determine what you do.

Four Needed Qualities
The Matthew 5:1 – 12 passage identifies a number of spiritual and positive characteristics. I only plan to highlight four of them. Our text pronounces a benediction on the poor in spirit. These are people who recognize their absolute need for God, and they depend on Him in all areas of their life. The number one problem in the church is self-dependency. The Bible has a lot to say about the self-life and overcoming the works of the flesh. Romans 6:6 states, “For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin.” In Galatians 2:20, Paul says, “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” Simply put, we need God to be in control, directing us, leading us along the path of righteousness. We need God to dominate our emotions, intellect and will and by extension to dominate all areas of our life – work, possessions, friendships and other areas.

Blessed are the meek. Meekness is a form of humility. Scripture tells us that God resists the proud, but He gives grace to those that are humble. God values humility, brokenness and contrition. Pride will always promote self at the expense of others. In its 2014 report, Oxfam indicated that almost 50% of the world’s wealth is concentrated in the hands of 1% of the world’s population: this is nothing more than the spirit of greed that promotes selfish concerns rather than loving and humble concern for others. Meekness has to do with the right use of authority. Meek people are secure in the use of their authority; they always act to serve and to be a blessing to others: Jesus had all power and authority, and yet He washed the feet of His disciples – this is seen in John 13. Meekness has to do with gentleness. Meek people always treat others with respect. They are not harsh and critical, but are available to help and build up others.

Blessed are the merciful. Merciful people help others who are going through miserable times in their life. Life has its joys and its victories, but it also has its sufferings and defeats. Those who are getting through well in life may be indifferent to the needs of those who are struggling. Like the priest and the Levite, we can easily turn a blind eye to the wounded man on the road to Jericho. Instead, we need to be like the Good Samaritan who ignored the prejudices of the day to help a Jew. Merciful people show compassion in helping those who are harassed and helpless. This is illustrated in the ministry of Jesus who had compassion on the people because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd (Matthew 9:36). Merciful people are forgiving; they do not hold on to offence. People will hurt us whether consciously or unconsciously and it is our responsibility and God’s requirement that we forgive them. God has made it clear that He will not forgive us when we don’t forgive others.

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness. Believers are told to seek God’s kingdom and His righteousness. The kingdom speaks of the rule of God; when this rule obtains in our lives, it produces the fruit of righteousness. Righteousness is full obedience to the Word and the will of God. It is this hunger and thirst for righteousness that drives believers to pray, to seek God’s face, to study and apply the Word and to experience revival. It is this hunger and thirst for righteousness that produces godly character. Righteousness worked out in the life of the believer is right living – the kind of life that pleases God.

Character at Work
Character is not something that we simply talk about; it must be something that is lived out in the various dimensions of our life. Character will affect our home life. Husbands will love their wives even as Christ loves the church. They will treat them with respect and dignity. Husbands will be kind, gentle and considerate. They will do all that they can to meet their wife’s needs including her need for romance. Wives will submit to their husbands even as the church submits to Christ. They will honor their husband, which includes affirming him in all areas and appreciating what he does. It will also involve respecting his leadership in the home. Parents will not provoke and abuse their children. They will show them love and will raise them to come to a saving faith in Jesus Christ. They will model Christianity for their children. Children will respect and obey their parents. Love, joy, peace, truth and open communication will characterize the home.

Character will affect our finances. We will give generously to God’s work because this is what God requires and because we recognize that God is the source of all things. Selfishness and indifference must never characterize the people of God: our mandate is the kingdom and when God rules in us, we will give to His work. We will not spend all of our money, but we will save some. To spend all without consideration for the future is irresponsible. Saving may include bank accounts, insurances, pensions and investments. We will not spend money foolishly because we recognize that God holds us accountable for how we use money; instead we will manage our money carefully. We will not get into debt unless it is absolutely unavoidable; for example, debt is often used to purchase the ‘big’ things such as a house or a car. We will pay our bills on time and service our debts on time. If we are going to be late, we will communicate such to those we owe. How we manage money is one of the biggest tests of our character.

Character will affect our work and our studies. One of the things that I admire about Daniel in the Old Testament was that he had an excellent spirit; his contemporaries could not find any fault in his work ethic. Christians of character will work with a spirit of excellence. They do the best that they possibly can do and are constantly looking for ways in which to improve. Workers with character will turn up for work on time. We will submit to and respect our boss. We will not grumble and complain, be divisive or in any other way create a negative work environment. We will not call in absent or get sick leave when we are not truly sick. We will not steal the company’s resources. In terms of schoolwork, we will not cheat or plagiarize (claiming other people’s work as our own and not giving them appropriate credit). We will invest time in preparing for our exams so that we can get the best possible result. These are some of the ways that we can show godly character in our work and studies.

Character will affect our church life. We will not speak badly of other believers, because we recognize that they are redeemed by the blood of the Lamb and that they are our brothers and sisters in Christ. We will forgive those who hurt us. We will practice open communication – we will speak the truth in love, and not hide and cover up. We will not practice dishonest communication. For example, you’re angry with someone, but when the person asks, you say that you are not angry. We will love and encourage our brothers and sisters in Christ. We will pray for, respect, follow and submit to the authority of the pastor.

In essence, character affects every major area of our lives. It affects how we play. Do we cheat? Are we overly competitive? Must we win at all costs? Do we get irritable and upset when we lose? It affects how we relate to others in the community. There may be some people that we don’t speak to. There are some people that we have judged and written off because of something that happened in the past. We must assess our lives and look at who we are and how we respond to different situations.

Damage Caused by Lack of Character
A lack of character can cause a lot of damage. It causes broken relationships – broken marriages, broken friendships. Relationships can be broken because of infidelity, ill treatment, abuse, insults, lying, unforgiveness, retaliation and other negative behaviors and statements. A lack of character destroys churches. Division can cause churches to split; churches may not realize their potential; funds can be misappropriated; ministries may compete against rather than cooperate with each other; control and manipulation can result in people feeling taken advantage of.

A lack of character ruins our Christian testimony. It causes people to distrust those in the church and to see them as hypocrites. Unsaved people may look at the church and feel that it behaves no differently than the rest of the society. This brings the gospel into disrepute, as persons fail to believe that the message of salvation makes any significant difference in a person’s life. A lack of character damages people emotionally – people are hurting because they have been ill-treated and abused. It hinders our relationship with God and can break our fellowship with Him. It leaves people confused and disoriented – e.g. when a leader lacks character, it disorients the followers. It can cause you great loss – reputation, money, etc.