The Beatitudes are a set of Jesus’s teachings found in the first part of the Sermon on the Mount (Matt. 5: 3-12; Luke 6: 20-23). The word beatitude comes from the Latin word for “blessed” which is how most of the Beatitudes begin: “Blessed are the poor in spirit”, “Blessed are the meek”, etc.
In the Beatitudes Jesus promised special blessings to people who live in certain ways. They are arranged in such a way that each statement builds upon the one that precedes it. The Beatitudes describe the traits that refine out spiritual character, and which are necessary to live in Heaven with God.
Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. “To be poor in spirit is to feel yourselves as the spiritually needy, ever dependent upon the Lord for your clothes, and your food and the air you breathe, your health, your life; realizing that no day should pass without fervent prayer of thanksgiving, for guidance and forgiveness and strength sufficient for each day’s need.”
Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted. “To mourn, as the Master’s lesson here wouldteach, one must show that ‘godly sorrow thatworketh repentance’ and wins for the penitent aforgiveness of sins and forbids a return to thedeeds of which he mourns.”
Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth. “A meek man is defined as one who is not easily provoked or irritated and forbearing under injuryor annoyance. Meekness is not synonymous with weakness. The meek man is the strong, the mighty, the man of complete self-mastery. He i sthe one who has the courage of his moral convictions, despite the pressure of the gang or the club.”
Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled. “Did you ever hunger for food or thirst for waterwhen just a crust of stale bread or a sip of tepid water to ease the pangs that distressed you seem to be the most prized of all possessions? If you have so hungered then you may begin to understand how the Master meant we should hunger and thirst after righteousness. It’s that hungering and thirsting… that induces worship on the Lord’s Day wherever we are. It is that which prompts fervent prayer and leads our feet to holy temples and bids us be reverent therein.”
Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy. “Our salvation rests upon the mercy we show to others. Unkind and cruel words, or wanton acts of cruelty toward man or beast, even though in seeming retaliation, disqualify the perpetrator in his claims for mercy when he has need of mercy in the day of judgment before earthly or heavenly tribunals. Is there one who has never been wounded by the slander of another whom he thought to be his friend? Do you remember the struggle you had to refrain from retribution? Blessed are all you who are merciful for you shall obtain mercy!”
Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God. “If you would see God, you must be pure. There is in Jewish writings the story of a man who saw an object in the distance, an object that he thought was a beast. As it drew nearer he could perceive it was a man and as it came still closer he saw it was his friend. You can see only that which you have eyes to see. Some of the associates of Jesus saw him only as a son of Joseph the carpenter. Others thought him to be a wine-bibber or a drunkard because of his words. Still others thought he was possessed of devils. Only the righteous saw him as the Son of God. Only if you are the pure in heart will you see God, and also in a lesser degree will you be able to see the ‘God’ or good in man and love him because of the goodness you see in him.”
Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God. “Peacemakers shall be called the children of God. The troublemaker, the striker against law and order, the leader of the mob, the law-breaker are prompted by motives of evil and unless they desist will be known as the children of Satan rather than God…That one who is quarrelsome or contentious, and whose arguments are for other purposes than to resolve the truth, is violating a fundamental principle laid down by the Master as an essential in the building of a full rich life.”
Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake. Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you.
“May youth everywhere remember that warning when you are hissed and scoffed because you refuse to compromise your standards of abstinence, honesty and morality in order to win the applause of the crowd. If you stand firmly for the right despite the jeers of the crowd or even physical violence, you shall be crowned with the blessedness of eternal joy. Who knows but that again in our day some of the saints or even apostles, as in former days, may be required to give their lives in defense of the truth? If that time should come, God grant they would not fail!”
The Beatitudes: Our Constitution for Perfection
All the above quotes are taken from the book “Decisions for Successful Living” by Harold B. Lee, who also said “in that matchless Sermon on the Mount, Jesus has given us eight distinct ways by which we might receive this kind of joy. Each of his declarations is begun by the word ‘Blessed.’ Blessedness is defined as being higher than happiness. ‘Happiness comes from without and is dependent on circumstances; blessedness is an inward fountain of joy in the soul itself, which no outward circumstances can seriously affect.’ (Dummelow’s Commentary) These declarations of the Master are known in the literature of the Christian world as the Beatitudes and have been referred to by Bible commentators as the preparation necessary for entrance into the kingdom of heaven. For the purposes of this discussion may I speak of them as something more than that as they are applied to you and me. They embody in fact THE CONSTITUTION FOR A PERFECT LIFE.” (Lee, Decisions for Successful Living, p. 56.)