The Beatitudes

"How happy are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of Heaven." See 2 Cor 8:9; Matt 6:19-21; Luke 12:13-17; Matt 6:25-34

This beatitude could be translated: "Blessed is the person who has realized their own utter helplessness, and who has put their whole trust in God, rendering to God that perfect obedience that will make them a citizen of the Kingdom of Heaven."

If a person puts their whole trust in God, they will become completely detached from things, for they will know that things do not bring happiness or security. This person realized that things mean nothing and that God means everything.

"Happy the gentle: they shall have the earth for their heritage."  See Psalm 37:11; James 4:6; 1 Peter 3:9-11; 5:5-9; Matthew 11:29

The Greek word "praus" from which "gentle" is translated has three shades of meaning. Aristotle defined it as the mean between excessive anger and too little anger. A second meaning would be the word of command, learned to accept control. A third meaning is true humility, which banishes all pride: the acceptance of the necessity to learn and to be forgiven.

In view of these shades of meaning perhaps this beatitude could be translated: 0 the bliss of the person who is always angry at the right time and never angry at the wrong time, who has every instinct, impulse and passion under control because they are God-controlled and who has the humility to realize their own ignorance and their own weakness for such a person is a leader among people.

"How happy are those who know what sorrow means, for they will be given courage and comfort." (Phillips translation) See Psalm 126:5-6; Isaiah 61:2-3

There are things that only sorrow can teach: sympathy for others who mourn and something of how to accept the tragedies, limitations, and weaknesses of my life. The Arabs had a proverb: "All sunshine makes a desert." When sorrow comes, a person is driven to the deep things of life, and in accepting it, a new strength and beauty enters their soul. Another meaning for this beatitude could be sorrow for my own sins and for the sins of the world.

"Happy are those who hunger and thirst for goodness, for they will be fully satisfied." (Phillips) See Proverbs 21:21; Matthew 6:33

Most people have an instinctive desire for goodness, but that desire is wistful and nebulous rather than sharp and intense; and when the moment of decision comes they are not prepared to make the effort, the sacrifice which real goodness demands. (e.g. the rich young man, Matt 19:16-22)

This is a comforting beatitude because it says that the person who is blessed is not necessarily the one who attains and achieves this goodness, but the person who longs for it with their whole heart. Blessedness comes to the person who, in spite of failure and failings, still clutches to their highest ideals.

"Happy are the merciful, for they will have mercy shown to them." See Matthew 25:35; Romans 12:14-21; Luke 15:4-7

We can be terribly righteous and cruel to others sometimes and be convinced that God wants this. However, this beatitude means much more than an emotional wave of pity for someone in trouble. The Greek word used for "Mercy" means the ability to get right inside the other person's skin until we can see things with their eyes, think things with their mind, and feel things with their feelings. This demands a deliberate effort of the mind and will. This would make forgiveness and tolerance so much easier.

"Happy the pure in heart, for they shall see God." See Psalm 24:3-4

The Greek word for "pure" has a variety of usages. Originally it meant clean, such as soiled clothes after washing; it also meant unadulterated, unalloyed, unmixed. So the beatitude could be translated "blessed is the person whose motives are always entirely unmixed." This beatitude demands from us the most exacting self-examination. Is our work done from motives of service or from motives of self display? Is our churchgoing an attempt to meet God or a fulfilling of a duty? To examine one's motives is a shaming thing, for there are few things in this world that even the best of us do with completely unmixed motives. (Barclay)

"Happy are the peacemakers; they shall be called sons of God." See Psalm 34:13-14,17-18; Prov. 15:18

In Hebrew, "peace" never means only the absence of trouble; it means everything, which makes for a person's highest good. Also, the blessing is on the peace-MAKERS, not necessarily on the peace-LOVERS. The beatitude is not talking about the passive acceptance of things because we are afraid of doing anything about them, but the active facing of things, the making of peace when the way to peace is through struggle. We could say, "blessed are they who make the world a better place to live;" also it could mean creating peace in our own heart; it also means establishing right relationships between others and myself.

"Happy are those who are persecuted in the cause of right; theirs is the kingdom of Heaven." See 1 Peter 3:14

When a person is called upon to suffer something for his Christianity that is always a crucial moment: it is the great occasion; it is the clash between the world and Christ; it is a moment in the drama of eternity. To have a share in such a moment is not a penalty by a glory.

It is not likely that death awaits us because of our practice of Christianity but insult awaits the person who insists on Christian honor. Mockery awaits the person who practices Christian love and Christian forgiveness. Actual persecution may well await the Christian in business and industry that insists on doing what is right. Christ still needs witnesses; those who are prepared not so much to die for Him, as to live for Him.