What is Jesus saying in this section of the Sermon on the Mount that we call the Beatitudes?
The Beatitudes are most well known as the list of those who are blessed but the Greek word used here in the text can also be translated as “happy.” Using either word when we read these verses can leave us a little baffled. Let’s look at these verses from our perspective. How do we consider ourselves blessed or happy when we are poor in spirit, or mourning? How happy are people who are meek or hungry and thirsty? And those who show mercy or who are pure in heart are often those who are trampled on in our society. And peacemakers…how often do you see people who look happy as they are shouting from their protests for peace?
Oh, yes and we can’t forget how happy those who are being persecuted are, I mean there is no happier person than one who is on trial, even if it is a trial of peers.
Now wait, that’s not what we, or at least I think of when I think of happy people. Generally, I would describe a happy person as one who smiles, laughs and brings pleasure to others. I love to see happy people, people of all ages. Kids that are happy can brighten up a cloudy day. To watch a group of teenagers playing a game, laughing and joking around is good for the heart. Adults, are sometimes a little more refined in their happy moments but a person who is happy wears a smile and has a personality that seems to just draw everyone to them. Happiness is usually a characteristic that is noticeable and pleasant.
So what is Jesus saying here in these?
“Beatitudes.” Listen, be–attitude, do you hear it? I hear “be an attitude”! Sounds like a teenager. I use to tell my kids they were a “walking attitude” Is being blessed about an attitude? Well after doing some research, I think it might be.
To be serious, the word beatitude actually means “supreme blessedness”. I don’t often do this but I pulled out my Greek to English dictionary and it helped me understand a little more why Jesus used this word. The Greek word, makarios, is an adjective which means blessed, fortunate, good, or happy.
In the New International Version of the Bible , this makarios is translated “blessed” 44 times, including the Beatitudes. It is also translated as “Fortunate” in Acts 26:2; Good in Matt 24:46; Luke 12:37-38,43; “happier” in 1 Cor 7:40.
When NIV uses the translation “Happy” it means feelings associated with receiving God’s favor. So let’s see, if happy feelings are associated with receiving God’s favor, than it leads me to the conclusion that being blessed can bring happiness. That’s why Jesus didn’t just say the first part of each of the beatitudes.
Jesus didn’t say
3 Blessed are the poor in spirit,
4 Blessed are those who mourn,
5 Blessed are the meek,
6 Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
7 Blessed are the merciful,
8 Blessed are the pure in heart,
9 Blessed are the peacemakers,
10 Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness,
This would have given a different idea of being blessed. Jesus said these are blessed because…
“Blessed are the poor in spirit….We need to clarify that Jesus is not speaking of those who are poor in money or in their beliefs but instead poor in their pride. Pride was and, let’s be honest, is a problem, and Jesus is saying for those who let go of their pride and humble themselves before Him, will find the kingdom of heaven. So therefore, for those who are poor in spirit and find heaven, there is great blessings and happiness. We need to recognize that happiness does not come with being humble, but by finding the kingdom of heaven.
Next, “those who mourn” are not automatically happy or blessed but through their mourning God will bring them comfort and they will be blessed.
Again, we see the meek, those who are not proud and self-absorbed, finding the kingdom of God and beyond. They will inherit not the earth as we know it now but the Promised Land. Their blessing and happiness is to come.
Those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, will find it in Jesus and will be blessed and happy.
The merciful, find happiness and are blessed by being shown the mercy they give. We hear Jesus teaching this throughout his ministry. Forgive as you want to be forgiven, treat others as you want to be treated, show love and you will be loved.
Those who are pure or innocent at the very center of who they are – mind, will and emotions will surely see God and they will be blessed and surely happy!
Those who are peacemakers and are striving to promote peace as much as they possibly can, are living as the example of their Heavenly Father, and they will be called children of God, being blessed and happy to be a part of God’s family.
Those who are persecuted because of righteousness, this one is tough but if we think about it, it was difficult then, just as it is now to do our best to live in a right relationship with God. Those who choose to live a Godly life are constantly finding themselves in opposition to this world, but as they stay true and righteous they find the kingdom of heaven, and how blessed and happy they are.
So yea, I guess that Beatitudes can lead us to have an attitude. If we choose an attitude of living for God we can find ourselves, blessed and happy.
Being a Christian and trying to live life as Jesus did, is not easy. Making choices, by asking ourselves, “What would Jesus do?” is tough. We aren’t always going to feel blessed in the midst of living for Christ, but as we do, we will find that we are truly blessed, finding God’s favor, and this, I believe, will bring us to a point of understanding and experiencing true happiness.