Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted. Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be filled. Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy. Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God. Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
To most of us, we have come to understand these verses as the “beatitudes”.
The term beatitude comes from the Latin noun beātitūdō which means "happiness" or supreme blessedness. The beatitudes here start off with the word “Blessed”.
What does it mean to be blessed? The old testament not only used this terminology a lot, they also gave a huge amount of importance to being blessed. Esau was really upset with his brother Jacob for have stolen his father's blessing through deception. Abraham was a blessed man. Joseph was a blessed man. Some others were not blessed. The Greek word for "blessed" used in the Beatitudes is makarios
In ancient Greek times, makarios referred to the gods. The blessed ones were the gods. They had achieved a state of happiness and contentment in life that was beyond all cares, labors, worries, sicknesses and even death. The blessed ones were beings who lived in some other world away from the cares and problems and worries of ordinary people. To be blessed, you had to be a god. People knew and believed in god back then and also believed that god lived in another "blessed" realm far away from worldly pains and sorrows. Therefore, if anyone was “blessed”, they had to be a god.
When this word, makarios was first used in the Greek translation of the Old Testament, it took on another meaning. It referred to the end results of right living or righteousness. If you lived right according to the word of God, you were blessed. If you didn’t live according to the word of God, you were not blessed, but cursed. (Deuteronomy 28). Being blessed meant you were happy and satisfied with life and received earthly and material things: a good wife, many children, abundant crops, riches, honor, wisdom, beauty, good health, etc. A blessed person had more things and better things than an ordinary person. That’s how a “blessed” person was identified. Abraham had an abundance of wealth, plenty of servants, flocks of animals, etc. People who saw him said "Abraham was a blessed man". To be blessed, you had to have big and beautiful material possessions along with good health and a happy family. This was how the term “blessed” was perceived back then.
In all of these meanings, the "blessed" ones seemed to live on a higher plane in life than the rest of us. They were like gods according to the ordinary people living at that time. They were the wealthy, upper crust. They were those with many possessions. The blessed were those people who lived above the normal cares, problems, and worries of normal and ordinary people.
But then Jesus came and rocked this whole mind set. Matthew (reflecting Jesus' thoughts) uses this word in a totally different way. It is not the elite who are blessed. It is not the rich and powerful who are blessed. It is not the high and mighty who are blessed. It is not the people living in huge mansions or expensive penthouses who are blessed. Rather, Jesus pronounces God's blessings on the lowly: the poor, the hungry, the thirsty, the meek, the mourning. This came as a shock to the people listening because it was totally contrary to their beliefs. Throughout history, it had always been the rich, prosperous and well to do people who were considered blessed. Jesus turns it all upside-down. The elite in God's kingdom or the blessed ones in God's kingdom, are those who are of a different kind.
Yes, of course there are rich, prosperous and influential people today who are indeed blessed of God. But what Jesus is teaching here is that “blessed” doesn’t refer to an abundance of material possessions alone. It has got to do more with the identifying marks of a child of God.
When you look at a dog, you say that’s a dog. Why? Because of its distinguishing features and mannerisms as that of a dog. Likewise….a duck or an elephant. They have distinguishing marks that helps you easily identify them. What then is the distinguishing marks of a Christian? How would you know if someone was a Christian if you spotted one?
Jesus is teaching about what a life blessed by God looks like.
The Beatitudes are not telling us how to become a Christian but rather it is telling us what a Christian looks like. The beatitudes are not a recommended change in behavior to become a better person. In fact, it is quite impossible for you to “obey” the beatitudes in your own strength.
For eg: Jesus said “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” Can you now decide that from tomorrow, you are going to be poor in spirit? Of course not. Likewise, can you decide on your own that from tomorrow, you are going to be meek? These changes are inward only possible by the power of the Holy Spirit.
Jesus didn’t teach the beatitudes to show us how to live an improved and better life in this world.
But rather, he was saying “Let me tell you what a person who lives under the blessing of God looks like….Here they are…and then He taught the beatitudes.”
In Matt 5:13 Jesus said “You are the salt of the earth, but if the salt has lost its taste (purpose), how can it be made salty?” – This particular verse talks about “people that belong to God”. He said “YOU ARE”. He did not say “You are going to be” or “You will be”. You ARE the salt of the earth. In other words, you that belong to God ARE the salt of the earth. Then He goes on to say, “If salt loses its flavor, how shall it be seasoned?”
You that belong to God are already in the kingdom of God and you ARE the salt of the earth. Now considering that the Kingdom of God is the ultimate realm, then if you lose your saltiness, where else can it come from? The representation of God is in you (salt). If you lose your peace (another of God’s kingdom component), then where else can it come from? If you lose your faith, belief, your health or whatever else you are crying out to God for…where else can it come from? They all have to come from God, who is already IN YOU.
Have you noticed…that everything that Jesus taught before His death and resurrection…though sounded really good…was almost impossible to do? So also the beatitudes are impossible to achieve unless you “understand” the gospel message.
Once we do understand the gospel message and how wonderfully we have been saved, then we can begin to understand how far we had fallen from the original purpose of God. At the same time, we get closer and closer to God. The more you realize how far you had fallen, the more closer and intimate you get to Jesus.
Eg: Take an object close to a light bulb. The further the object is from the light bulb, the more perfect and clean it looks, but as you get the object closer and closer to the light bulb, you begin to see flaws, dirt, dust and other marks on the object. Likewise, we also when we get closer to God, we begin to see our own flaws more and more clearly. The more closer we get to Jesus through His word, the more insignificant and unworthy we feel, but at the same time we also feel very pleased that we are saved and that we belong to God. Our hearts well up with immense gratitude, isn't it? If you can relate to this example, you have just achieved the first beatitude. “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven”.
Likewise, you can directly relate all the rest of the beatitudes to the level of your understanding of the gospel message.
If you are feeling miserable about how imperfect you are and how full of flaws you are, but you still feel very grateful and comforted with His amazing love, then you have just achieved the second beatitude. “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted”.
If you have concluded that nothing in this world is worth chasing after and you really don’t care about people around you placing importance on insignificant matters, then you have just achieved the third beatitude.”Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.”
If all you are longing for is more of an intimacy with Jesus and He is subconsciously at the back of your mind throughout the day, then you have just achieved the fourth beatitude. “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be filled.”
I think you get the point. If you belong to Christ, you are a new creation. The Holy Spirit lives in you. You are not of this world. Sin has no dominion over you because you are not under law, but under grace. There is now no condemnation for you because you are in Christ Jesus. You are the righteousness of God in Christ Jesus. Your mind is subconsciously aware that all things will work together for good for you because you love God. As you go about your day to day work, when something steals your peace, your immediate first thought is Jesus and your faith in Him keeps you stay calm. If this is you, then you are “blessed of God”.
You can even get prosperous with an abundance of all needs when you are blessed of God. That is an end result or a fruit of being blessed of God. Read the message on “How to prosper God’s way” here.
I know you are all blessed ones of God. Stay blessed my dear brothers and sisters. Next time when you say God bless you to someone, say it in renewed faith. Try to confess "I am blessed" as often as you can because if truly God has blessed you, then its impossible for you to fail, be depressed, discouraged or sorrowful. When you pray from a stand point of being blessed, your prayers are full of faith. "Without faith it is impossible to please God - Hebrews 11:6". So when you know you are blessed, you are always full of faith. GOD BLESS YOU.
I was radically transformed by the love and forgiveness of Jesus Christ back in 1997 in a most unusual way and unusual place. Read my testimony here. Over the years I have come to realize a few basic truths that have altered my life.
True freedom is freedom from self-centeredness. Dying to yourself, your wants, your desires and to what gives you pleasure for the sake of others is more liberating than you think.