The Beatitudes from Jesus' famous Sermon on the Mount may be some of the most misinterpreted words ever uttered. They have created mass confusion among Christian people - especially when one tries to "keep them."
But the good news is that they were not designed to be "kept." They are not telling us to "be" anything, or "do" anything. They are not, put simply, "commandments."
The Beatitudes have as their focus the Kingdom of God. And when one begins to understand the message that Jesus brought, they will see that Jesus is not telling them to try and be "poor in spirit," or "meek," or even "merciful."
Consider this: If Jesus were telling us (in the Beatitudes) to "be" something in order for God to reward us in some manner, then He would have been introducing another form of "deadly legalism." And that is precisely what many have done with their rendition of the Beatitudes.
But that is not the message of Jesus. The message of Jesus is one of grace, mercy, compassion - and the availability of the Kingdom of God. Let me repeat that last statement: the availability of the kingdom is the essence of the Beatitudes.
In other words, Jesus is not telling us that we must climb a type of spiritual ladder to get to God, nor is He informing us how we might secure the blessing of God. In the Beatitudes, He is describing different types and kinds of people, informing them all that the Kingdom is now available to them - regardless of their past history, or present status.
It is important to remember the kind of audience that first heard these words of Jesus. If you check out the passage carefully, you will discover the types of people that hung on these words of Jesus. Matthew 4:24 describes this crowd: they were "...sick people...with various diseases and torments...possessed with devils...lunatic...those with palsy..." Wo - what a crowd!
Consider the first Beatitude:"Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven." Some have said that Jesus is actually commending the "poor in spirit." But is there anything "blessed" about being poor in spirit - or poor in anything, for that matter? Of course not. Jesus never commended poverty of any kind, much less spiritual poverty.
What He is actually saying is that the "poor in spirit" can be blessed because the kingdom is available to them. They are blessed because the kingdom is now available to them, and when they take possession of it, spiritual riches are their lot.
Who, then, are the "poor in spirit?" They are the moral wretches, the spiritual zeroes, the "nobodies." They are the ones who have no spiritual aspect to their life: they have absolutely nothing to offer to God. This is why the gospel is such "good news." It is good news to those who, like me, have far too often made such a mess of their life. They may be the harlots, the drug-addicted, the sex-addicts, the one whose poor choices have led to their ruin. Jesus is telling such people that the Kingdom of God - the Rule of God - can now become a reality in their life.
"BLESSED ARE THEY THAT MOURN: FOR THEY SHALL BE COMFORTED." This was Jesus second "Blessed are they..." He is telling the one who mourns that the kingdom of God is also available to her, or him. And when that kingdom comes, it brings the very comfort of God himself. And who is the one who mourns?
I used to think that this was the one who mourns over his sin, and it certainly includes such. But it is much more inclusive. The one who mourns includes us all, for we have all mourned. This is a Beatitude that aims at the one who's heart has been broken for whatever reason: the mother who's son is addicted to drugs: the father who doesn't know the whereabouts of his daughter: the man who after 35 years with the company is laid off due to "cut-backs:" the woman who has been sexually molested and has carried the pain for years. There are so many things that can break the heart! But the Kingdom of our Father brings a comfort that no man can render - or take away.
The "Kingdom" was a favorite topic of Jesus, and its theme runs through the New Testament. Jesus mentioned the kingdom over 100 times! Put simply, the kingdom is anywhere that God's effective will is done.
The Sermon on the Mount is often viewed as the "laws of the kingdom." However, this is just not so. Jesus did not come to give us more laws - HE came to give us life! And his life, imparted to us at salvation, is the means by which we experience the reality of the Sermon on the Mount.
If you view the Sermon on the Mount as a list of regulations for kingdom living, you will soon fall into despair. But if you invite the kingdom to overtake and consume you, then the commandments that are observed in the kingdom will soon flow naturally.
The Sermon on the Mount is actually a description of what a life looks like when under the influence of the kingdom. For a better understanding of this, read thearticle about the New Covenant.
"BLESSED ARE THE MEEK, FOR THEY SHALL INHERIT THE EARTH." Many have supposed that Jesus was commending the meek and promising a reward for those who are such. But that is not what is being said here. The meek, as used here, is a reference to the shy ones, the intimidated, the unassertive. These are the ones from whom no one would solicit their opinion - for their opinion doesn't matter. These are the ones who suffer from low self-esteem, struck by a strong sense of being nothing in the world and having nothing to offer. But Jesus makes the kingdom available to these, also. And what do such folk find when the kingdom invades their life? They become royal, sons and daughters of the Living God, who owns the earth and now shares it with them! (thus they "inherit the earth.")
"BLESSED ARE THEY WHICH DO HUNGER AND THIRST AFTER RIGHTEOUSNESS: FOR THEY SHALL BE FILLED." I used to think that this was a qualifying statement before one found salvation. I thought you had to first "hunger and thirst" before God would fill you. And there is certainly some truth in that. But that is not what is at play here. Jesus is speaking to those who long for things to be right and just.
He is speaking to that one who detests the fact that there is so much wrong in this world - including in themselves. He is speaking to the one who has been wronged by his fellow man. He is addressing the injustice that is so prevalent in our world, and which sometimes consumes the victim who burns with a revengeful mind.
Jesus is telling such a one that when the kingdom enters them, they find a satisfaction in God that overrides the hurts of the past (or present) - and they are not destroyed by them. That is not to say they no longer have any pain. Indeed, they may still have some residue from the awful injustice done to them: but in God they find a peace that passes all understanding. They are "filled..."
CLICK HERE FOR CONCLUSION