“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.” (Matt 5:3-5 NIV84) [see these verses in their context below]
What is common is often misunderstood or overlooked.
The Beatitudes found in the Sermon on the Mount are a common topic for discussions on how to be a good Christian or simply a good citizen of society. These nine statements with promises of blessedness are prominently featured on wall plaques in many homes.
When Jesus declared these truths, He intended them to be encouraging to people. But they are also declarations of the nature of those who populate the Kingdom of Heaven (God). Each statement includes a promise which defines why these attitudes of heart are blessed.
As the gospel narrative continues in Matthew, these declarations become indictments of those who hold a pseudo-spiritual righteousness in their hearts. Namely, the Pharisees and other self-righteous leaders.
Each of these Beatitudes begins with the word blessed. Some Bible versions use happy instead but this weakens the sense Jesus intended for why such people are blessed. When Jesus said “Blessed…” He had in mind—supremely blest, enviably happy, well-off or spiritually prosperous.
Blessed is more like joy—the fruit of the Spirit—than the emotion of happiness that comes and goes. It is an attitude of the heart embedded in a person who trusts in God above all else.
Each of these Beatitudes is seen in Jesus throughout the gospel narrative. They reflect His nature as the Son of Man and the Son of God.
These same heart attitudes are to be seen in those who surrender their lives to the Lord as their King, as they live out their daily lives as members of the Kingdom of Heaven.
It’s good to want to emulate these Beatitudes but our selfish nature gets in the way and pushes aside our good intentions. No one can be any or all of these on a consistent basis without the Lord’s help.
He enables us to do so by His Spirit and gives us a new nature when we are born from above.
Redefining the Nature of God’s Kingdom
Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
To be poor in spirit is the opposite of pridefulness and arrogance. It is more than humility alone. It is humility before God. An acknowledgement of who God is and our smallness and weakness in comparison.
In Luke’s gospel this Beatitude is expressed as—Blessed are the poor… (Luke 6:20). Simply put, they don’t think highly of themselves.
The person who is poor in spirit knows they don’t have anything great to offer God. Whatever gifts or blessings they have are given by God not inherent in themselves.
It is an attitude of heart opposite from what the Jewish spiritual leaders would expect. They saw themselves as superior to others less spiritual, especially those who were poor and needy.
This is the nature of Jesus and His kingdom. Jesus is humble by nature as seen in His birth, upbringing, and approach to ministry and leadership. This is what the apostle Paul points out when He says—
He made himself nothing by taking the very nature [or form] of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death—even death on a cross! (Phil 2:6-8 NIV)
Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.
There is both an actual and spiritual sense to these Beatitudes but the promise is true in both senses—those who mourn will be comforted.
One of the great promises of God is found in the last book of the Bible, Revelation at the end of the age—
And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes. Rev 7:17 NIV
The idea of comfort for mourning is found throughout the Psalms and in Isaiah (Is 25:8; 35:10; 51:11). And Paul says the comfort we receive is comfort we can give to others (2 Cor 1:3).
This Beatitude proceeds forward from the first one. Just as the Kingdom of Heaven is granted to those who are humble or poor in spirit, so those who mourn for their spiritual condition before God will be comforted by His grace.
It’s an acknowledgment of a person’s unworthiness before God with a promise of restoration through comfort with God’s mercy and grace.
The Messiah was spoken of as the Consolation (comfort) of Israel by the prophet Simeon when Jesus was presented at the Temple after His birth. And Isaiah uses the word comfort to describe the coming of the Messiah (Is 52:9).
Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.
I’ve heard jokes made that the meek will inherit the earth and all its mess because they’re too timid to refuse it. But this perspective completely misses what Jesus says here.
First of all, Jesus looks ahead to a new earth and new heaven (Rev 21:1). The earth the meek will inherit will be new and improved!
You may have heard people refer to meekness as weakness but this is not at all true. The word meek or meekness is hard to translate from its original language into English because of its depth of meaning.
A simple explanation is the balance between anger and indifference. It’s also been likened to the strength of a well-trained horse kept under control. This is seen with Jesus when He cleared the Temple (John 2:13-17) and when He remained silent when wrongfully accused (Matt 26:59-68; 1 Peter 2:22-23).
The meek, those who will inherit the earth, are the ones whom God trusts to care for and oversee His creation with Him—even as the first people on earth did in the beginning (Gen 2:15).
This is what Jesus says about Himself—this is His nature—
…learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart…. (Matt 11:29 NIV)
Which of these three Beatitudes do you relate to most at this time in your life?
The state of blessedness in these Beatitudes is only possible with a humble and honest heart, as we surrender our lives to Jesus as King, and He fills us with His Spirit.
When you find yourself at a low point or in a time of mourning, ask God to remind you of His promise to comfort you as a member of His Kingdom. Ask God for humility, a gentle and self-controlled spirit, so others may see you are a child of the humble King.
Devo Scripture Text
Now when he saw the crowds, he went up on a mountainside and sat down. His disciples came to him, and he began to teach them saying:
Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled. Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy. Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God. Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
(Matthew 5:1-12 NIV84)