Planks in the Platform of the Kingdom: The Beatitudes
3 Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
4 Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted.
5 Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth.
6 Blessed are they that hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled.
7 Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy.
8 Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God.
9 Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called sons of God.
10 Blessed are they that have been persecuted for righteousness' sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
11 Blessed are ye when men shall reproach you, and persecute you, and say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake.
12 Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets that were before you.
When the political parties of our nation assemble in their respective delegations to choose nominees for office, their first step is to outline a platform of principles which they feel should be ideologically imposed upon candidates who are to represent their party. In a similar way, Jesus put before his disciples the planks in his platform for life in the kingdom which he had come to announce. This we know as the Sermon on the Mount, found in Scripture in Matthew 5-7 and in an abbreviated form in Luke 6 (vv. 20-49).
Like all theoretical platforms, it is filled with high ideals. And no part of this discourse is more idealistic than the opening statements, the so-called "beatitudes" (from the Latin Bible's word for "blessed," beati). In these summary remarks, he describes in simple language the principles which ought to prevail in the lives of men after they have come into the kingdom.
Each of these consecutive pronouncements is tied together with the opening word makarios, "blessed" or "happy." Taken together, they intend to answer one of the deepest longings of the human spirit: the desire to be happy. People generally feel that physical circumstances are what make human beings happy: accumulating wealth, going places, gaining fame, accomplishing things, setting records, achieving popularity, etc. In truth, happiness is enjoyed because the heart is set upon happinessregardless of circumstances.
Here, again, is the Lord's list of the truly happy people:
1.Poor in spirit. The reign of God begins in the heart of the Christian. People who feel that they are poor, know that they are in need. Those who feel rich consider themselves self-reliant (Rev. 3:17). To express this utter dependency upon God, the word ptochos is used (not the other word for "poor," penes. The penes was so poor he earned his bread by daily labor, whereas the ptochos was so poor he obtained his living by begging). We are only truly rich when we look to God for spiritual guidance.
2. They that mourn. The type of mourning which the context dictates (there is no reference here to any sort of physical loss or tragedy) is under consideration is that which is described in 2 Corinthians 7:9, 10, that is, the result of moral or spiritual concerns. When we mourn over sin and this mourning moves us to repentance and correction, then we are truly happy people!
3. The meek. Almost a direct quotation of Psalms 37:11, Jesus emphasizes the necessity of taking the low road, the path of humility in all of our relations. Children who succeed learn to be obedient and submissive to parents and grandparents, teachers and others in positions of authority. Disciples learn this with teachers; all Christians should develop it with their elders and to one another. Positive humility, not negative timidity, is meant here. Arrogance and pride are the way to failure. Meekness is the road to success!
4. They that hunger and thirst after righteousness. Those who hunger and thirst after the best and highest virtues of life will be filled. One has a tendency to become like what he or she thinks about all day long. If we concentrate upon the noblest virtues, righteousness with man and God, then this will "fill" our entire being.
5.The merciful. The route to happiness also involves forgiving others. If we think about repaying evil for evil, getting even, and taking vengeance upon our enemies, then our hearts will be heavy and our lives miserable. Also, forgiving others will cause God to have mercy upon us in our own times of weakness and frailty (Matt. 6:12).
6. The pure in heart. Psalm 24 had asked the question who was worthy to stand in the Divine Presence, and had answered: "He that hath clean hands and a pure heart" (v. 4). Likewise, Jesus says it is those who have pure hearts that "shall see God." So often today we are affected by the sin that surrounds us in such abundance. The mass media more and more these days concentrates its attention upon that which is vile and vulgar. If we are constantly imbibing these influences then we will miss heaven, for it is impossible to have a pure heart while filling it with evil thoughts and filthy images.
7. The peacemakers. War and fighting among the sons of men have proven a scourge to the human race. The toll in lost lives, shattered futures, destroyed property, wasted energies and squandered resources, etc., can never be told. Yet the real causes of war are from the most aweful impulses which creep from out of the depths of the human soul: "From whence come wars and fightings among you? Come they not hence, even of your lusts that war in your members? Ye lust, and have not: ye kill, and desire to have, and cannot obtain: ye fight and war, yet ye have not, because ye ask not" (Jas. 4:1-2).
8. They that are persecuted for righteousness' sake. Criticism and persecution are hard to accept. Jeremiah complained as he endured its chaffing rub (Jer. 9:1-8). There is no other beatitude which more clearly illustrates the point that true happiness is something which is from within, distinct from one's circumstances. No one enjoys being persecuted or molested for righteousness' sake. Jesus said, "leap exceedingly" in joy, for such persecution associates us with the notable prophets of the past. It also associates us with the Savior himself, for he was "despised and rejected of men." What makes it bearable is the realization that there will be an eternal end to it, and heaven will be so incomparably superior to it, as to make any cost paid in life well worth the exchange!
These are the opening words of the Sermon on the Mount. They are clearly planks in the platform of his kingdom, as well as virtues identified with Christ's disciples. We ought to be cultivating them in our lives today, for they cannot help but transform us in the process.
Guardian of Truth XXXVII: No 22, p. 7-8