The Beatitudes (Matthew 5:2-12) are some of the most frequently quoted verses in the Bible, but what are they?
On a first reading, they seem to be a list of character traits that God blesses. Actually, the word “blessed” is a misleading translation of the Greek word makarios. Makarios doesn’t mean someone that God blesses; it is more accurately translated as fortunate or well-off. The Beatitudes do not discuss characteristics that God blesses, but rather people God considers well-off because of their characteristics or experiences.
- Blessed are the poor in spirit – The poor in spirit are those who humbly trust God even though this trust may result in oppression or lack of material goods. Their loyalty to God is first in their lives.
- Blessed are those who mourn – These are Christians whose lives may look unhappy from a worldly perspective and who may experience suffering because of their relationship with God.
- Blessed are the gentle (meek) – These are those who don’t shout about their own importance. Instead, these people rely on God to give them credit when it is due to them.
- Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness – These are the people whose one desire is for an obedient and trusting relationship with God.
- Blessed are the merciful – These are people who have a heart of compassion for and show mercy to others as they have themselves been shown mercy.
- Blessed are the pure in heart – These are people who love God and only God with all their heart. Their loyalty to God is undivided–a condition that really only can be realized in heaven when we finally see Him face-to-face.
- Blessed are the peacemakers – These are people who settle conflicts in an unselfish manner. These people don’t add to conflicts by gossiping or spreading rumors. They don’t show favoritism and they settle conflicts in a just manner.
- Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness – These people live their whole lives for God and His will. Their entire lives are about seeing God’s will done on earth. A life lived in this way invites criticism and persecution, but that doesn’t stop them from pursuing righteousness.
The Beatitudes describe the characteristics that God wants us to develop. Gentle, loyal spirits dedicated to unity, righteousness, and mercy impress God. Those are the people that God considers rich. I know that there are characteristics listed here that I could stand to develop more, particularly the first. It is still hard for me to fully trust God even though He is always faithful.
Which of these characteristics would you like to develop more?
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 (Matthew 5:11-12).