Read: Matthew 5:2-12
If one were to ask any random person about what he or she wants out of life, without fail that person will probably give some answer about wanting to be happy. Humanity values happiness, so they pursues it and go through great lengths to find it. The founding fathers of the United States recognized this fundamental value and baked and even used it as a basic premise in the Declaration of Independence as a self-evident truth.
Happiness is also expressed a number of ways in the Bible. The word translated “blessed” in the Greek simply means “happy” and the word “beatitude” underscores this, as it is taken from the Latin word for happiness. Paradoxically though, the beatitudes in many cases describe circumstances that seem contrary to what one might consider an intuitive pathway to happiness, like mourning and persecution. While the word “blessed” simply means happy, the kind of happiness that Jesus is trying to teach about here is not conventional happiness, rather happiness in spite of adversity because the happiness does not come from the circumstances, but from the things of God. The beatitudes of Jesus are a collection of sayings about happiness, but they each stand on their own. The understanding and application of each one of these then should follow suit.
- Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Being “poor in spirit” is not to be understood as being lacking in spirit, rather one who comes to God with no perceived righteousness of his or her own. Isaiah 61:1 speaks to those who are in a similar state. When such people have nothing to offer God spiritually, then God has everything to offer them and they can receive it. This is why the promise to the poor in spirit is the kingdom of heaven. To be a Christians, being poor in spirit is a virtually requirement: one has to realize that he or she has nothing to offer God in way of his or her own righteousness rather one depends on the righteousness of Jesus which is imbued on believers at the moment they trust Jesus for salvation. Jesus himself says that unless one must become like a humble child to enter the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 18:3-4).
- Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted. Again, Isaiah 61:2-4 speaks to those who mourn. The mourning here is for the great loss of Jerusalem that was torn down. The promise though is that the “ancient ruins” will be rebuilt, a promise of restoration and future glory that will come. A similar theme is found in Isaiah 40:1, where the prophet declares “comfort, comfort” to the people. This same chapter is applied to John the Baptist who is the voice calling out in the wilderness preparing the way for Jesus. The comfort the hearer finds in the restoration of life toward the end of the chapter where exaltation and limitless strength and vigor are found (Isaiah 40:28-31). James 4:9-10 echos this idea of those who mourn being exalted. While this verse certainly has application to those who mourn the loss of a loved one, the more pointed application is for those who see the evil and destruction world such as abortion, racism, starvation, poverty, homelessness, sickness, orphans, and refugees, and mourns for the world because it isn’t right. Such people God will comfort because he is bringing redemption and restoration with the kingdom.