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An Importance of Courage in Sermon on the Mount

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Virtue serves as a guide to one’s life. Without virtue it becomes harder to live a fulfilling life that is not riddled with regrets. Virtue is defined as “morally good behavior or character”(Merriam-Webster); it can serve as a pillar to a person’s life choices, and because of what virtue can do for somebody, it is very important to develop virtue for one’s own good. Courage, for example, is a virtue that people with religious beliefs can develop by putting trust in God, as the teachings of Jesus imply in “The Sermon on the Mount”. Jesus discusses what we should not worry about when he uses the metaphors of the birds and the lilies in this sermon. However, even those who may not have religious beliefs can still draw courage from the logic behind the teachings of Jesus to that fear and worry can be dispelled.

It could be argued that courage is something that is absolutely necessary for life. And if that is true and everyone has courage or is courageous at some point in life, then what decides that a person actually has courage as a virtue, and not just as a necessary aspect of life? The keyword in the definition of virtue is character; it implies that virtue is a part of someone, deeply ingrained in their way of life and personality. Then, courage as a virtue is not one suddenly found for an occasion, then lost until it is needed again. The virtue of courage is what a person lives by.

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Christians for a long time have been taught, and are still being taught, that faith and trust in God are important. However, faith and trust in God serve for so much more than salvation, and many people still do not look beyond the idea that faith and trust are just items one needs to “earn” salvation. The idea that faith and trust serve a purpose other than salvation has been overlooked for a long time. But the seed for making courage a virtue in a person is planted by putting faith in God, and this is because one realizes the Almighty watches over them. While this realization is definitely a boost to morale, this idea has to be pushed further in order for it to blossom as the virtue of courage. One has to put into practice the idea that God is there for them and can meet every need. Jesus puts it brilliantly when He says, “Behold the fowls of the air: for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are ye not much better than they?” (KJV, Matt. 6:26). Fowls of the air do not take on the troubles that we bear for ourselves, but they do well for themselves anyway. On the other hand, people are generally afraid of so much and spend time worrying instead of living. People are afraid of losing a job, or not being good enough. They often forget to be where they are and just live. Putting faith in God is giving up every burden to Him. For one who has faith in God, their fear disappears in every situation because they know that He is there for everything they need. Facing the darkness and being too afraid to take another step is replaced by the courage of knowing that God can protect from whatever lies in the darkness. When facing a horde of enemies on a battlefield, the one who put his faith in God is courageous and fearless because his life is in God’s hands, and whatever happens, it will be alright. Courage becomes a virtue for someone who has put their faith in God (almost recklessly) by placing everything in His hands. Jesus even illustrates this when he says “And why take ye thought for raiment? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin: And yet I say unto you, that even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these” (Matt. 6:28-29). Jesus highlights that people worry about things He sees as trifles, but it cannot be overlooked how he illustrates the lilies. Lilies simply live in their environment and are provided with whatever comes their way, they do not have the cares humans do. In the same way, a person with the virtue of courage that is cemented by faith in God fears nothing and simply lives their life. For people of faith, being of courageous character comes from the unshakable trust that God protects and provides. In essence, one almost borrows courage because it did not come from within oneself, but in trusting in something else.

People without religious beliefs, however, must look elsewhere to obtain the virtue of courage. If a non-religious person lives a life full of dangers and fear and worry, they often have no one to look to but themselves for strength. However, if a non-religious person, with the viewpoint that there is no higher being, sits down and looks at what Jesus says, sometimes they can find that some of what he says does not look too far-fetched. When Jesus says “Are ye not much better than they?”(Matt. 6:26) referring to birds, that can be a logical appeal. On the grand scale of things, it can be generally agreed that a human is higher up on the ladder of importance than a bird. Birds do just fine on their own, and they are just birds. So what is to stop someone from being much better than “just fine”? A man can do good for himself on his own. In fact, in thinking like this, one could develop the idea that things have a way of working themselves out. There is nothing wrong with this idea; it can serve to take away fear. The story of the lilies can have the same effect, which can lead to the realization of one’s own importance simply because they are human. When non-religious person realizes they are invaluable because they are human, they find faith in themselves, in turn having courage as a virtue by their own right. Realizing one’s own value and ability creates the foundation of believing in oneself, and that is something hardly anything on this earth can take away. While the non-religious person who does not put faith in God cannot be as recklessly fearless as someone who does, the non-religious person can still take comfort in their value as a human along with the idea of self-reliance from which they draw their courage.

It should be noted that while these two ways of developing courage as a virtue each have their own merits, the better path is that of developing courage due to faith in God. While a non-religious person cannot easily lose the courage they develop to the world and its trials, there is still one very powerful enemy. Because the non-religious person developed courage within himself and by himself, that person is still exposed to himself, and sometimes the greatest enemy that can be found in the mirror. When a person places complete trust in themselves, they may not always realize that they are their own worst enemy. Placing faith in God, however, is placing faith in something that can never be shaken, never be defeated, and never be taken away. Even when the person courageous in God is in a dark point in their life and everything is all but lost, God is the infinite fountain that can renew. With God, a person does not have to worry about being their own worst enemy because God is there to swoop in and save them from themselves.

In the end, obtaining the virtue of courage is a noble pursuit no matter which method is taken, and requires effort from a person for results to be seen. However, the purest virtue is found in Jesus Christ, in God the Father, and in the Holy Spirit. The teachings of Jesus in The Sermon on the Mount can serve as a starting point for anyone seeking to obtain courage, even for those who have no religious beliefs. While Jesus may be speaking from the stance of faith, He nevertheless teaches timeless truths for all.

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