The word "Beatitude" comes from a Latin word meaning "happy" or "blessed." The Beatitudes are therefore blessed sayings or congratulations. The Beatitudes in Matthew chapter five begin what is commonly known as the Sermon on the Mount. The audience of the beatitudes is the disciples. Therefore, we can assume that what Jesus teaches his disciples here applies to all disciples to come (See Matthew 28:19-20).
Blessedness was associated with the existence of the gods In the Greco-Roman world during Jesus' time. The gods were considered blessed because they didn't have to deal with all of the everyday stuff that people deal with. Therefore, anyone who seemed to transcend the everyday sorrows and struggles was considered to be blessed. Blessedness in this instance meant that the person enjoyed great fortune.
In the Old Testament blessedness was quite different. A person was considered blessed if they were perceived to be close to God and lived a godly life. See Psalm 144:14, 112:1-3, 84:12 for examples of Old Testament blessedness. The Beatitude that Jesus gives a an announcement of the coming Kingdom or more precisely the way that the kingdom of God is. Those who are citizens of God's Kingdom are blessed. Note that the blessedness of God's Kingdom is very different from secular blessing, which is based on material things.
Matthew 5:1 through Matthew 5:2 (KJV) 1And seeing the multitudes, he went up into a mountain: and when he was set, his disciples came unto him: 2And he opened his mouth, and taught them, saying,
Jewish teachers usually sat down to teach as opposed to today where teachers typically stand up in front of the class. Jesus was teaching his disciples so what he says applies to disciples as stated in the Introduction.
Matthew 5:3 (KJV) 3Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
The word "blessed" comes from a Greek word that means fortunate, happy, well off. We should not confuse the word happy with the emotional state of being happy. Happiness in this context transcends emotions and describes a state of being. Remember that the beatitudes are statements of Jesus Christ so these things are as they are. The term "poor in spirit" denotes someone who knows that they are spiritually needy. Jesus says that the Kingdom of God belongs to those that are spiritually needy people. Note that this pertains to those that are citizens of the Kingdom, namely the disciples. This is not suggesting that all who are generally spiritually needy has the Kingdom of God.
The word heaven in this verse also implies a place of happiness, power, and eternity. It is a blessed place of which disciples are citizens of.
Matthew 5:4 (KJV) 4Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted.
Citizens of the Kingdom of God that grieve will be comforted. They are happy because God will comfort them. We can have assurance being citizens of the Kingdom of God and thus disciples (seekers, learners, students of truth) that God will comfort us when we are in sorrow.
Matthew 5:5 (KJV) 5Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth.
Those who are humble (consider themselves insignificant as in not being conceited) will inherit the earth. This is an allusion to the original purpose that God gave humans. We were supposed to possess the earth that God gave to man. However, those who are humble will inherit the earth and walk in the fulfilled purpose of God.
Matthew 5:6 (KJV) 6Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled.
The word "fill" means to be satisfied. Those who want to do what is righteous vehemently are happy because God will fill satisfy them with righteousness (and the righteous life).
Matthew 5:7 (KJV) 7Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy.
The word merciful identifies someone that is actively compassionate. These people will reap mercy. This mercy is ultimately from God, however people may manifest it. See Luke 6:38. Therefore, the merciful are happy.
Matthew 5:8 (KJV) 8Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God.
The word heart in this context refers to the thoughts, feelings, i.e., the mind. The word "see" means to gaze with wide open eyes as at something remarkable. Therefore, those who have a pure mind (thinking) shall view God in awesome wonder.
Matthew 5:9 (KJV) 9Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God.
The word peacemakers identify those who are peaceable. The word children denote someone considered to be in kinship as in a son. Therefore, peaceable people and those who promote peace will be called children of God. This implies that God is a peaceable God and therefore his children will be peaceable as well.
Matthew 5:10 (KJV) 10Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness' sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
The Kingdom of God belongs to those who suffer and are persecuted on account of the righteous life that they live. You are blessed according to the standards of the Kingdom of God though you are being persecuted.
Matthew 5:11 (KJV) 11Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake.
You are blessed (disciples) are blessed even when people taunt, persecute you, and say all kinds of hurtful, mischievous, and malicious things about you falsely on account of Jesus Christ. Again note the contrast between the Kingdom of God and the secular world. One is not considered blessed by the world's standard if you are being persecuted.
Matthew 5:12 (KJV) 12Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you.
Be full of cheer and jump for joy because you have a great reward waiting for you in heaven (the abode of God). The prophets in the past were also persecuted. The word "reward" implies payment for a service rendered as in wages.
Do you accept and believe what Jesus taught in these scripture or are the beatitudes simply a nice scripture to recite. Your blessings do not refer to feelings. Rather, the blessings (congratulations) declared by Jesus Christ are so. It is up to us to accept it regardless of the situation that we are in and believe it knowing that our lives transcend the physical world and that our lives extends into eternity with the Father.
Be blessed because Jesus said that you are.
Also note that the blessings of the Kingdom of God is very different from the blessings of the world. Those who are meek, peacemakers, and spiritually needed are not necessarily considered blessed. However, those who have an abundance of money and material things are considered blessed in the secular world.
Christians have to be careful that we don't get caught up in the blessings of things. Even many Christian organizations and preachers have succumbed to the mentality of blessings by riches. The word of faith movement vehemently associates blessings with the abundance of material things. This is of the world. This is not to say that having an abundance is not a blessing from God because God is ultimately the one who gives us such things (for a purpose). Our blessing is not in the things but rather in the fact that God chose us as a steward of those things. This implies that God trusts us. To be trusted by God even if with the smallest thing is far more significant than having an abundance of stuff and declaring yourself as blessed.
The Beatitudes reveal to us the operation of the Kingdom of God and it lets us know that we are blessed according to the teaching of Jesus Christ recorded in Matthew.
(c) 2000 William R. Cunningham
January 3, 2000