2 He opened His mouth and began to teach them, saying,
3 "Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
4 Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.
5 Blessed are the gentle, for they shall inherit the earth.
6 Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.
7 Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.
8 Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.
9 Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.
10 Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
11 Blessed are you when people insult you and persecuted you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me.
12 Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great; for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you."
Beatitudes and Blessings - General
This section of Scripture is often referred to as "The Beatitudes." It's easy to brush the word off as merely another example of "Christianese," but it actually makes a lot of sense when you look into the etymology of the word - it simply comes from the Latin word for "blessedness." I find this whole situation ironic, given that many people likewise gloss over this familiar passage, despite the spiritual gems just below the surface...
I also want to briefly clarify the meaning of "blessed" since it occurs so many times in this passage. Some interpret it to mean phsyical rewards, like we see in the Old Testament when God gave his most faithful followers riches, security, and fame - but I adamently disagree that that's what "blessed" means here. Not only are all the specific blessings listed in this passage spiritual in nature, but we see that elsewhere in the New Testament (for example, Mary in Luke 1:42 - her blessing was spiritual honor, yet she had to suffer much on the earth). Besides, even within this passage alone (namely, verse 11), we see that we as Christians are not called to live comfy lives - remember, we are under the new covenant.
So what do these spiritual blessings look like? Here are a few examples pulled exclusively from these Beatitudes:
Salvation (verses 3, 5, 7, 9, 10)
God's Peace (verse 4)
Righteousness (verse 6)
Closer Relationship with God (verse 8)
Great Honor in Heaven (verses 11-12)
(There is some overlap, of course; I just tried to focus on the primary blessing in each verse)
Going for a Stroll
Now that we've got the overview covered, let's cover each beatitude individually.
Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
This is a basic salvation blessing. To accept God's forgiveness, we first have to admit how very much we need it - we have to acknowledge how poor (in the sense of bad or lacking in worth) in spirit we are. So, it's essentially:
Blessed are those who are open about their lack of holiness, because I grant them citizenship in My Father's heavenly kingdom.
Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.
This can be taken two ways. First, the most obvious, literal interpretation - Don't worry about it when your world falls apart, because I Myself will personally comfort you.
And second, consider it in the light of the first verse...as in,
Blessed are you when you mourn over your own sinful nature, beause I will comfort you by bestowing My righteousness upon you.
Blessed are the gentle [or meek], for they shall inherit the earth
The ultimate point of salvation is not a free ticket out of hell, but rather restoring us to being in God's image - restoring us to being just like Him. Jesus was the ultimate example of being meek (meek doesn't mean beaten down and mousy, but rather purposefully keeping your own power, authority, prestige, etc. under complete control) - something that goes completely against human nature. So, the affect that comes through salvation (the process of becoming like Christ) and the result of salvation (that is, salvation from sin and therefore residence in God's kingdom - a.k.a. the new earth) are wrapped up in this beatitude. So:
Blessed are those who are meek like Christ, because they get to live with Him for eternity.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.
This one's my favorite! :-) It's saying that if you truly crave God's righteousness - if you yearn for it as much as you yearn for your daily sustenence of food and water - He will give it to you. Remember when Solomon asked for God to grant him His wisdom, not riches or power, God gave it to him.
Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.
This reminds me of the parable of the unforgiving servant. The fact is, forgiving others is evidence that you truly have been changed by salvation; refusing (note - not struggling, but refusing) to forgive others is an act of open rebellion against God. Therefore, by being willing to forgive others, you keep your heart in a state that is open to God's forgiveness - one that embraces love and admits your own faults.
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.
Honestly, I don't think this has anything to do with making wordly peace, such as in politics and wars. Rather, it refers to some sort of spiritual peacemaking - perhaps aiding reconciliation among quarelling believers, or sharing the Gospel with others (thus bringing them to peace with God). If this is a correct interpretation, then this beatitude is saying that sons of God (Christians) will be peacemakers - it's an instruction to be peacemakers.
Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great; for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
We already discussed these a bit above - God gives us spiritual honor when we suffer persecution (also consider Philippians 1:29 and Revelation 2:10).
But I want to cover the first part in a bit more detail. 2 Timothy 3:12 tells us, "Indeed, all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted." Again, wanting to become holy like God is the poing of salvation - so, all true Christians "desire to live godly" - so, all will be persecuted to some degree. So, this beatitude is a reassurance - we will suffer for our faith, yes, but our salvation is totally worth it! The oft-quoted Romans 8:18 tells us, "For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed in us."
What do you think?
Do you have a favorite beatitude? Can you think of another angle on any of these that I missed? Anything else you'd like to say or ask? :-)