King James Version (KJV)
5 And seeing the multitudes, he went up into a mountain: and when he was set, his disciples came unto him:
2 And he opened his mouth, and taught them, saying,
3 Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
4 Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted.
5 Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth.
6 Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled.
7 Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy.
8 Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God. 9 Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God.
10 Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
11 Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake.
12 Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you.
When we look to classify ourselves as happy or successful, what do we tend to measure? Is it the more materialistic things in the world or the true happiness and success that only God can give us?
Far too many times in our world today, happiness and success is seen as how much wealth we have, the type and size of our homes and cars, what job position or title we have, or how many holidays we can enjoy taking. These are not the ways in which we should see TRUE happiness and success, as this can only come from having God in our hearts and lives and by following his teachings to us.
Jesus Christ also once set down eight principles for the measure of a person’s happiness and success. His standards stand in stark contrast to the aforementioned. There would appear to be an extremely wide difference between the popular image of the successful and happy person and what God sees it to actually mean.
At the beginning of Jesus’s ministry when gaining in popularity, he delivered a sermon to the multitudes from the quiet of the rolling grassy hills of northern Israel, by the Sea of Galilee. Listening to this sermon were rich and poor, young and old, varied races, those who were astute business men and those who were failures. In fact, the crowd that Jesus spoke to that day represented the world in miniature form.
Yet, as different as they all were, Jesus understood that they were all on the same quest. They were all after the same thing. They all wanted happiness and success. Well, we are just like them aren’t we? Isn’t that what we want for ourselves? Isn’t that what we ultimately want for our children?
“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” The first step on the path to the Kingdom of God is recognition that one is spiritually poor. The poor in spirit know there are few spiritual resources in themselves. They know they need help from above. The poor in spirit KNOW they need the Kingdom of God. Others don’t understand that need or don’t want to acknowledge the need because they think they can save themselves on their own and don’t want the Kingdom. God doesn’t force His kingdom, but he does gladly give it to all who know they’re losers without Him and humbly seek His help.
With pride gone, trust in self, intellect, and possessions gone, one is ready to mourn. Jesus says, “Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.” When Jesus says those who mourn, he isn’t talking about a bunch of people who are just sitting around crying. One who mourns is one who is moved to express deep concern. One who mourns is one who is really grieved that things are way they are. The mournful take no joy in idly contemplating their miserable failures. The mournful aren’t content to say “that’s the way things are, there’s nothing I can really do about it.” Those who mourn are sick and they know it, and they want to get well. One who mourns is concerned to the point of action, which explains why they shall be comforted. There is hope in action, that things that are wrong can be changed, and as kingdom people those who mourn live with the promise that things will not always be as they are.
Jesus moves then from the mournful to the meek saying “Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.” When Jesus says “meek” he’s not talking about a bunch of pushovers. Meekness is that mysterious ingredient which baffles the high and mighty of this world. The meek surrender their will so completely that their will becomes God’s will, that whoever fights them is fighting against God. Surrendered human will is the agency through which God’s power is released upon the earth. This is why the meek inherit the earth. Only the totally committed are considered worthy of inheritance of God’s kingdom on earth.
Then Jesus told the crowd that “Those who hunger and thirst for righteousness are blessed, for they will be filled.” Religious life in Jesus’ day emphasized the external. Many people obeyed the Jewish Law because they were expected to, not necessarily because they really believed in it. Many were motivated by a sense of reward or were motivated by earning the praise of others. Jesus was aware of the prevailing hunger and thirst for what everyone called righteousness, but was really praise.
Kingdom citizens who had really submitted themselves to God would have a deep desire for righteousness of the Kingdom instead of a mock hunger for what had been called righteousness. Such imitation righteousness, humanity’s empty praise, never did and never would satisfy the inner craving of the soul. This is not the case with inward, vital, and joyous righteousness rooted in the true love of God and neighbor, not worldly praise. This righteousness yields fullness and fulfillment that are beyond anything humans can offer.
Next Jesus says “Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy.” Mercy is warm, compassionate, tender, and never seeks to barter. Mercy isn’t offered expecting something in return. The merciful want to gladly share all that they have with others and with the world. To the merciful, people aren’t beggars to whom one gives a part, but are brothers and sisters with whom one shares all. A secret has been revealed to those who are merciful. True joy and fulfillment can be found in sharing generously of what one has, but that secret will be lost if the merciful become miserly with their resources. In his first letter John captures the spirit of this Beatitude when he asks: “How does God’s love abide in anyone who has the world’s goods and sees a brother or sister in need and yet refuses to help?”
Jesus then speaks of the pure of heart. He says they will see God. Kingdom people exhibit an honest desire for real righteousness. A pure heart is a new nature formed in us, not something we create ourselves. A pure heart is a gift from the father to those who want it. A pure heart fosters the desire in us to break away from sin in all its many forms. A pure heart will help us break away from our former masters. Kingdom people can’t have one god for inside and one god for outside.
Having more than one master makes life confused and tense. Having to keep our eyes focused on more than one master makes us cross-eyed, and causes our vision to be so blurred that we can’t see anything clearly. The eyes of the pure in heart are singly focused. Their sight isn’t impaired. This is why Jesus said they would see God.
Jesus says, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.” Peacemaking is what God does. God is bent on the salvation of the world. That’s why he sent His only Son to save us. Peacemakers are those with God in this plan of redeeming the world. God’s plan of peacemaking isn’t merely to bring about an outward settlement between evil people, God wants instead to create a people of goodwill. Peacemakers are agents of the Kingdom of God, which alone is capable of bringing true peace. It’s hard to ignore and to be indifferent to a body of Christians living as peacemakers. The peacemakers confront the world with an entirely different way of life, a new way of thinking, a changed set of values, and a higher standard of righteousness. And in this new way of living, the peacemakers may seem subversive to those loyal to the world.
Finally, Jesus says, “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” Jesus says that Kingdom people very well may get persecuted by those who still uphold the world’s standards. Jesus is often accused of being a visionary. He was, in fact, the world’s greatest realist. Jesus wasn’t blind to the explosive nature of the things he was preaching and teaching. He knew it would lead to his own persecution and death. He knew that the Kingdom of the Spirit and Truth was the mortal enemy to systems built on power, greed, oppression, and falsehood. Jesus knew that conflict was inevitable, but offers solace to those who keep the faith in the face of difficult times. Persecution is terrible, but the emptiness of faithlessness is far worse.
If we truly listen to the word of God and follow it in our hearts and in our lives, we will then find the only true happiness and success.