The Beatitudes do two things. First, they teach us what sort of person a citizen of heaven will be. They teach us what sort of characteristics or marks identify individuals as kingdom citizens. Second, they teach the blessing that citizens of heaven enjoy now as they anticipate the coming kingdom, even as they live in a world that has been ruined by sin. This week, we considered the first four Beatitudes found in verses 3-6.
I. Blessed are the Poor in Spirit (verse 3)
The one who is poor in spirit recognizes that, like poor Lazarus in Luke 16, he has no resources of his own. Because of their sin, they have become spiritual beggars before God, having no righteousness or merit of their own with which to purchase their entrance into the kingdom. And yet, the promise Jesus gives is that it is to these spiritual beggars, those who recognize their spiritual poverty, to whom the Father gives the kingdom. It is God’s good pleasure to give the kingdom to those who know they have no right to enter it. Rather than looking to their own resources, those who are poor in Spirit flee to the only One who can make them rich, Jesus Christ (c.f. 2 Corinthians 8:9). Jesus entered into our poverty by taking upon Himself our sin and punishment, in order that He might make us rich heirs of the kingdom with Him. Of course, being poor in spirit doesn’t mean we ignore or deny the evidences of God’s work of transformation in our lives. But with that acknowledgment, we also recognize that it is all of His grace and that we still have a very long way to go before we are what we will one day be.
- The Christian life is one of continual spiritual poverty. While we recognize that Jesus has now made us rich by virtue of His grace through faith, we also recognize that apart from Him, we can do nothing and are helpless in our sin. The Christian that is growing in maturity is one who is growing in dependence (rather than independence). Does your life reflect a consistent dependence on the grace of Christ? How should being poor in spirit affect the way you relate to other people?
II. Blessed are those who Mourn (verse 4)
Everyone in this world experiences mourning and sorrow. We all lose loved ones, suffer trials, and weep and mourn at times because of afflictions in life. However, not everyone is blessed of God, so clearly that can’t be the kind of mourning Jesus has in mind here. Mourning, as Jesus means it here, refers to the sorrow we feel for anything that opposes God’s glory in us (i.e., our own sin; c.f. 2 Corinthians 7:9; Psalm 51) or outside of us (i.e., the sins of others; c.f. Psalm 119:136). Only God can take the man’s sinful natural heart, one that is at enmity with Him and lives for self, and turn it into a heart that mourns over the failure of God’s creatures to glorify Him as He deserves.
Jesus doesn’t merely leave us in our mourning—He also gives the promise that with our mourning will come comfort. We experience the fulfillment of this promise now in the assurance of the forgiveness of sins (c.f. Romans 4:7-8). We anticipate the perfect fulfillment in the future when all such mourning will be completely eradicated because there will no longer be any sin (Revelation 21:4). The joy and comfort of the Christian flow out a heart that has felt the weight of its sin and now enjoys the freedom of forgiveness from it.
- Are there any sins in your life that you are treating as if they were trivial? Is there any lack of repentance? Repent of your sin and ask the Lord to give you the grace to mourn your sin that you might more fully enjoy the forgiveness of it in Christ.
III. Blessed are the Gentle (i.e. “Meek”) (verse 5)
The best translation for the word “gentle” (NASB) is “meek.” Jesus is quoting from Psalm 37:11, where the Psalmist describes the meek man’s steadfast confidence in the Lord even when wickedness seems to prevail for the moment (c.f. Psalm 37:7-11). The greatest picture of meekness is Christ Himself, “who committed no sin, nor was any deceit found in his mouth; and while being reviled, He did not revile in return; while suffering, He uttered no threats, but kept entrusting Himself to Him who judges righteously” (1 Peter 2:21b-23). One of the ways we are most like Jesus is when we display the same kind of humble, meek confidence in our God, even in the face of mistreatment by others, confident that “The Lord will rescue me from every evil deed, and will bring me safely to His heavenly kingdom…” (2 Timothy 4:18).
- Where do you have opportunities to express the meekness of Christ in the face of mistreatment? What does it look like in those situations to confidently wait on the Lord and not take vengeance into your own hands?
IV. Blessed are those who Hunger and Thirst for Righteousness (verse 6)
Rather than imputed “righteousness” as it is used in the sense of our justification, Jesus has in mind here “righteousness” in the sense of our lives becoming practically a reflection of the righteousness of God. The person who hungers and thirsts for righteousness is the person who hungers and thirsts to become more like Christ on a day to day basis. This hunger and thirst for righteousness is not just for us individually on a personal level, but it’s also a desire for all the people of God and even for all the world—that righteousness would be established on the earth. The promise is that every longing after righteousness in the heart of the believer will be fully satisfied (c.f. Philippians 1:7; Ephesians 5:27; 2 Peter 3:13).
- Give thanks to God that Christ died not just to forgive us for our sins, but also “that we might die to sin and live to righteousness” (1 Peter 2:24). Pray that He, for His sake, would increase in you a hunger and thirst for righteousness in your own life and in the life of others.