Many Christians can name the Ten Commandments and the Apostle’s Creed, but what are the Beatitudes? The Beatitudes are a set of teachings and blessings that Jesus gave in the Sermon on the Mount in the Gospel of Matthew. The messages found in the Beatitudes describe the foundation of the Christian faith. The purpose of the Beatitudes is to inspire Christians to live according to the traits Jesus describes. Some of these acts are simple, and some are grand, but they all form the cornerstone of the ideal Christian lifestyle. Therefore, living out the Beatitudes’ examples is very important for a Christian.
The word Beatitudes means “blessed” or “happy” and is derived from Latin. While there is some dispute about how many Beatitudes there are, biblical scholars usually cite those found in the book of Matthew 5:3-12. The Gospel of Matthew is characterized by many parables and teachings that demonstrate how Christians should live their lives. In the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus named eight groups of people who were considered to be unfortunate and declared that they were blessed.
The first Beatitude Jesus gave in the Sermon on the Mount appears in Matthew 5:3.
"Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven."
The “poor in spirit” are those who are humble and recognize that all their blessings come from God. Spiritual poverty means to acknowledge their own shortcomings, and therefore their need for God’s Word. When someone is “poor” and therefore empty, they allow God to fill them with His Spirit, and with that comes humility. Humility is the opposite of pride, the sin that comes before the fall. When people are humble, they allow themselves to be vulnerable, forgiving and ultimately at peace.
The next verse declares that those who mourn are blessed.
"Blessed are they who mourn, for they shall be comforted."
With mourning comes humility and the revelation that the Earth and its blessings are finite, while the kingdom of heaven is eternal. When people mourn for their own sins, the sins of the world and the suffering of others, they recognize that mourning is a temporary earthly ailment and eternal comfort shall come from God. Followers of Christ also mourn because the more they meditate on the Word, the more they will see the poverty of human nature. Seeing this fallen state of humanity should spur them to strive for and seek comfort from something greater, but also have compassion for their fellow human beings.
The following verse is surprising in its declaration regarding those who are meek.
"Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth."
Once again, the meek are the humble. The meek are obedient and submissive to the will of God. Jesus was “meek and humble of heart” (Matthew 11:29), and this is what Christians are called to strive for. While those that “inherit the earth" are often thought to be the bold, those that submit to a greater will than their own will ultimately inherit the true riches of the earth.
Matthew 5:6 uses the metaphor of hunger and thirst to apply to a craving for spiritual righteousness.
"Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied."
Those who hunger and thirst for righteousness rather than worldly pleasures will ultimately be more satisfied. Once again, the spiritually hungry are empty and shall be “filled” by the Holy Spirit. Followers of Christ should consistently strive to better themselves and fill themselves with the Word of God.
Jesus alludes to the golden rule of loving others as yourself in Matthew 5:7.
"Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy."
Mercy is an important characteristic in the Bible, and is mentioned many times, such as in Luke 6:36: “Be merciful, just as your father is merciful.” Anytime someone truly forgives another, mercy is shown. To have mercy is to show compassion and love to one another. This is essentially the golden rule of Leviticus 19:18: “You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against any of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the Lord.”
In Matthew 5:8, Jesus makes what would have been a shocking statement to his audience on the mount.
"Blessed are the pure of heart, for they shall see God."
To be pure of heart means to be full of grace, humility and love. Everyone is a sinner and therefore not entirely pure of heart, nor of mind or flesh, but by following God and following His Word they can be washed clean.
Moses (Exodus 33:20), John 1:18 and Paul (1 Timothy 6:16) all said that no one can see God on Earth. Therefore, only the pure of heart shall see God in the kingdom of heaven. This means that one should strive to exemplify love, humility and selflessness in all that they do. The Beatitudes reveal the metaphorical face of God. The face of God is revealed to those who seek Him.
The following verse defined what it is to be a peacemaker and the reward that type of person will receive.
"Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called children of God."
Peacemakers are not leaders and rulers; rather, peace leads and rules the one seeking Christ. Philippians 4:7 says, “And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.”
In John 14:27, Jesus says, “Peace I leave with you: my peace I give to you.” This means the peace that worldly peacemakers offer is not the same peace that God offers. Jesus left the world with the potential for peace after his sacrifice at the cross. However, worldly peace can never last because of mankind’s sinful nature. After He left the Earth, He offered the possibility of eternal peace through Him for those who seek it.
Jesus concludes with a bold declaration in Matthew 5:10.
"Blessed are they who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven."
Christians are all called to hold strong in their beliefs, even though they may be persecuted or their opinions will not be popular. If a Christian is unfairly treated due to their faith, they will ultimately be blessed in the next life and inherit the kingdom of heaven. Christians should hold fast to their beliefs even when they are told to do something that contradicts their beliefs or that they know to be wrong.
This passage continues in Matthew 5:11-12: “Blessed are you when men 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 so men persecuted the prophets who were before you.” Persecution persists throughout the world in many forms. Christians are called to love and help those who are persecuted and help raise them up. In verse 11 when it refers to those who, “utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account,” it is referring to those who use the name of God in vain to persecute others and declare themselves Christians while acting in direct opposition to the teachings of Christ.
There are a number of ways in which the Beatitudes come into play in daily life. Indeed, there are certainly many other ways in which these tenets can be lived out as well. There are numerous Christian resources that describe how Christians should live out the Beatitudes and Christ’s other teachings. Whether you are a believer or simply curious, the Bible is a fascinating book with a rich history, and the Beatitudes describe universal virtues such as humility, compassion and helping others that can resonate with anyone.