The Beatitudes (Part 1)
Jesus' Sermon on the Mount, found in Matthew 5-7, begins with a section commonly referred to as the Beatitudes, meaning "perfect joy." Most of the beatitudes are paradoxical and contrary to the world's view. The word "blessed" is used throughout this passage, and it can be accurately replaced with the word "joyful." Another synonym that could be utilized is the word "happy," as long as one understands this bliss is not due to good luck or chance (i.e., "hap," which is the root word in "happy").

Jesus begins His lesson by saying - "Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven" (Matt. 5:3). To be "poor in spirit" is to feel a deep sense of spiritual poverty. It is to empty oneself and understand one's insignificance in comparison to Almighty God (and others, Phil. 2:3,4). To be "poor in spirit" is to have a state of mind that is lowly and reverent before Him. It is to be full of humility, not pride (e.g., the tax collector and Pharisee, respectively, in Luke 18:9-14). It is impossible to be "poor in spirit" until one realizes his spiritual need. As long as a person delights in sin, he will not be "poor in spirit," and he will not seek the Savior since he does not feel a necessity for Him (cf. Matt. 9:12). To be "poor in spirit" is a joyful condition because one who is aware of his sinfulness and hopelessness without God will seek the "kingdom of heaven" and find hope therein.

Second, Jesus declared - "Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted" (Matt. 5:4). In the Greek language, the strongest word for "mourn" is used here. This term indicates a type of mourning that cannot be hidden. The blessing here is not upon all who mourn (e.g., those with worldly sorrow would be excluded, II Cor. 7:10). Those who mourn because of sin and consequently repent are the ones who will be blessed (James 4:8-10). Such a person mourns over sin from a tender conscience and broken heart, realizing it is what separates him from God spiritually (Isa. 59:1,2). After one realizes his sinfulness, he can be "comforted" by the discovery and acceptance of God's pardon, made possible by obedience to the saving gospel (Rom. 1:16; 6:17).

Third, our Lord spoke these words - "Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth" (Matt. 5:5). Those listening to Jesus speak were full of the hope that He, as the Messiah, would lead them to conquest in a physical kingdom that would dominate by force (cf. Prov. 16:32). However, Jesus taught true joy is found in meekness. The primary meaning of this word is "mild" or "gentle." Meekness is not another word for weakness, as some mistakenly believe, for genuine meekness is strength under control. "Meek" has its origin in the taming or domestication of animals. A wild animal is strong, but destructive and of little value when out of control. However, when a horse, for example, is tamed, it loses none of its power, but its strength is brought under the control of its trainer. It is now a useful animal and can be employed for much good. The same is true of man. A person who is strong (physically or spiritually) is of little use to the Lord until he submits to Him and allows his strength to be controlled by God's desires. A meek person is totally given to the divine will. Such a one does get angry when circumstances warrant it, but he does so in a controlled manner (i.e., without sinning, Eph. 4:26). Moses is a good example of meekness (Num. 12:3; Exo. 32:19ff); so is Jesus (Matt. 11:28-30; John 2:14ff). The meek shall inherit the earth in the sense that they shall enjoy it more fully while living upon it (cf. Phil. 4:10-13). Selfish, violent people may literally possess the earth and its physical treasures, but the meek truly inherit the real blessings of this world and appreciate them without becoming obsessed with them.

Dear listeners, are you humble? Do you mourn over sin? Are you striving to develop a spirit of meekness? There are great blessings to be had in these attributes. We will continue this study of the beatitudes tomorrow.