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 satisfied. (Matthew 5:3-6)
Jesus told a parable that beautifully describes the person in whom are found the spiritual character traits which Jesus lists in the first four Beatitudes. It’s found in Luke 18:9-14.
“He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and treated others with contempt. Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed thus: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.’ 13 But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ 14 I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.” (Luke 18:9-14)
What’s the point of this parable? Luke tells us that Jesus told it because there were… …some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous.” (v 9). The main point is like that of the first four beatitudes: No one can enter the kingdom of heaven until they recognize their absolute inability to be “good enough” and their need to depend wholly upon His mercy and grace. When we embrace the first four Beatitudes and understand deeply in our hearts that this is what it means to be truly blessed, the next four Beatitudes spring to life.
Blessed are the merciful, For they shall receive mercy.
Blessed and the pure in heart, For they shall see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers, For they shall be called the sons of God.
Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, For theirs is the kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 5:7-10)
One scholar calls the first four beatitudes the “beatitudes of need”—meaning, we need God. He calls the last four beatitudes the “beatitudes of action.” When we are transformed by the Holy Spirit so that our spiritual character conforms to the first four beatitudes, the last four flow natural (or supernaturally) from them.
Jesus says, “Blessed are the merciful…” The merciful are followers of Jesus who profoundly appreciate the way God has forgiven their sins through the death and resurrection of Jesus. God withheld from us the judgment that we deserve, drawing us instead, into a relationship with Him. People who have experienced God’s mercy are empowered to pass it on to those who offend them. They don’t retaliate or try to get even. Instead, the forgive and let live and let go.
Blessed also are the “pure in heart.” These are followers of Jesus who are not motivated by self-love or human approval. Instead, the live in the knowledge that God has accepted them in Christ. So, they are motivated by God’s approval and a desire to please him. The are free from self-love and the need for praise from people, to serve God and others with and undivided heart.
“Blessed are the peacemakers…” These are followers of Jesus who do what they can to bring about conciliation and reconciliation between persons, peoples, and nations. Most importantly, the work to be agents of reconciliation between other people and God through the gospel of peace.
One might expect that people who display the spiritual character traits listed in the first seven beatitudes, would be welcomed by people in general. However, this is often not the case. So, the last beatitude is this one: “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake…” That is, blessed are those who are slandered, mistreated, and rejected because they are followers of Jesus. Jesus’ narrow-gate theology is a call to a sacrificial way of life that stands against the norms of our culture. It’s a call to the blessed life of selflessness! It’s a call to live selflessly even when people mistreat us because we are followers of Jesus. The selfless life is indeed, blessed.
Have you ever helped someone or served someone, taking no thought for yourself? Did you feel depressed or upset because of what you did? No! Most likely you felt blessed by God! This leads us to an important truth: God has designed us to find FULFILLMENT and BLESSING when, and only when we stop living for ourselves and start living for God by following Jesus. We simply will not find satisfaction, fulfillment, or, most importantly, the blessing of God, any other way.
Hughes, R. Kent, and Douglas Sean ODonnell. Matthew: All Authority in Heaven and on Earth. Crossway Books, 2013.