It is sometimes a puzzle to understand God's mind. His thinking is so far above ours. The secret is: there is no secret. People pay gurus millions to learn what is often half-baked wisdom and ignore the wonderful truth found in the beatitudes which is free to all (Matthew 5:1-12). These can be like puzzles to us because they are contrary to popular thinking, but they are secrets of heavenly thinking.
Let us understand the puzzle of true happiness.
We will look at the secret behind the beatitudes, 8 principles of true happiness.
More than happy
Is saying, “I’d be more than happy" just exaggerating? No, it turns out the popular saying contains a great deal of truth. We can be more than happy. What is more than happy? Being blessed is more than happy. After Jesus gave the beatitudes during his sermon on the mount (Matthew 5:1-12), it was written down in Greek using a word that is usually translated as blessed in English. However, it has also been translated as happy at times. A discussion among translators has been whether happy or blessed is a more accurate translation. Most translators seem to have come to the same conclusion, that happiness can be fleeting, but blessedness remains. The beatitudes are not keys to a fleeting emotion, but a core inner condition. So, the word blessed was chosen, because yes, we can be more than happy.
The mystery of being poor in spirit
What does “poor in spirit” really mean in Matthew 5:3? Poor can mean dispossessed and abandoned. A poor person has a deep sense that the world has failed them. Can a wealthy person be poor in spirit? That depends. Wealth is a deceiver. It makes us think that we are a big person, as opposed the the less fortunate who are viewed as "little people." It can deceive us into thinking that the world has provided for us. In reality, the world has failed all of us. So, Jesus did not say “poor in possessions” but “poor in spirit.” The description is independent of this material world. The people of God rely on God not this world’s solutions. They boldly face the truth of our abject spiritual poverty. They are blessed people, because heaven rules them not this world.
The secret behind being poor in spirit
In modern English, when someone is discouraged, we sometimes say they are in poor spirits. That is not what Jesus meant in Matthew 5:3 when he said blessed are the poor in spirit. The word poor here means someone so destitute that they don’t even have food. How can that be blessed? To understand, let’s take the opposite extreme, someone who believes they are spiritually filled and in need of no more. This is the attitude that some folks have. They are obnoxious, self-satisfied, shallow and unpleasant to be around. They may constantly judge us as inferior and compare us with their so-called higher level of spirituality. They are in fact deluded by spiritual fools gold. Being poor in spirit is simply facing up to the facts. We are all desperately poor and in need of God’s merciful provision.
The secret behind whose IS the kingdom
Why does the beatitude regarding being poor in spirit include a promise of heaven here and now (Matthew 5:3)? The kingdom of heaven is certainly future, but it is also now. True Christianity is not among the spiritually arrogant who judge and condemn others as not being spiritually filled. Let us wake up from the delusion of consuming that which is not spiritual food, and realize that we are not filled, not satisfied and spiritually destitute. When we realize the deception and know our spiritual poverty, we become the Church, those whose only hope is heaven. Only then can we experience a taste of heaven on earth. We seek the real thing instead of a counterfeit spirituality. Our imitation diet of spiritual junk food which feeds a counterfeit kingdom is swept away leaving room for the kingdom of heaven.
The mystery of mourning
What does it really mean in Matthew 5:4 to mourn? How does sorrow produce blessedness and bring comfort? Ecclesiastes 3:4 says there is a time to mourn. Mourning is part of the process of repentance. It prepares for a change of heart about going the wrong way. Fasting is associated with mourning, a short period of abstinence from foods in order to pray. James 4:7-10 shows the need to mourn and humble ourselves before God, cleansing our hands of dirty deeds and purifying our hearts of wrongful thoughts so that he can lift us up. If we find no cause for joy in our past mistakes, or in the evils of this world, then there is hope for a change of heart. If we then turn to God to save us, he will bless and comfort us.
The secret behind mourning
Nobody wants to mourn. We want pleasures, see things and make an impression. How can mourning be a blessing (Matthew 5:4)? Let’s contemplate the opposite. What if we never learn from our mistakes? What if nobody ever cared about world problems? When would we ever change for the better? When would we ever want to help others improve? When would we ever want to make a better world? A careless attitude that never mourns for the evils of our world, never mourns for personal mistakes is a dangerous attitude. Mourning helps us change. Mourning means we are processing things, learning a lesson. Mourning means there is hope for better decisions next time and a better future. If we don’t mourn our mistakes, we will never be comforted. So yes, blessed are those that mourn, for THEY will be comforted.
The mystery of meekness
Why does Jesus in Matthew 5:5 promote meekness? The opposite of meekness is self-importance. Pride fights and creates strife whereas humility makes peace. Arrogance seeks vengeance while meekness forgives. Ego boasts great things, but purity is unpretentious. Impatience makes enemies, while forbearing creates friends. Antagonism creates hard feelings while mutual submission creates trust. Hardheadedness makes life difficult, whereas a pliant spirit smooths the way. Combative personalities are bad company, while affable hearts are welcome. Inheriting the land can be a metaphor for God’s provision to Israel. Who is more likely to be given a job or considered for a promotion, the arrogant misfit or the humble team player? Humility is a great secret of the universe that is ignored by the proud to their own hurt. Surely, the meek are blessed and inherit all the good things of life.
The secret behind meekness
The secret is that the meek are very strong people. That is why in Matthew 5:5 Jesus said blessed are the meek. Meekness is not weakness. It is just the opposite. Weak people try to cover their weakness by boasting, shameless acts, violence, pretentiousness, pride and conceit. Meek people don’t need to pretend. They are strong enough face the truth. They know they are but dust, soon to return to the dust of the earth, and that human life is a mere vapor. Humble people are a pleasure to be around. The opposite is true of arrogant people. They have few true friends because they are so repulsive to be around. History shows that crude, overbearing buffoons do not last long. Gentle and considerate people are loved by all and inherit the land after spineless bullies are long forgotten.
The mystery of craving what is right
Why does Jesus promise in Matthew 5:6 that those with an appetite for righteousness will be filled? A natural result of mourning the evils of this world is to desire justice. However, if we do not also mourn for our own sins we are in danger of becoming arrogant and self-righteous in spirit, instead of humble. Hungering and thirsting to do the right thing means that we sincerely pray that part of the Our Father which requests, “your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” Some argue that it is impossible for human thoughts to attain this high standard completely and they are probably correct. Yet, the Holy Spirit patiently works with our carnal minds and pricks our consciences towards this end. Jesus’ promise is that if we crave justice and righteousness, we will be filled.
The secret behind craving what is right
There is a disease in the land, a craving to do wrong. Even chocolate seems more desirous if we call it wicked or sin. In Matthew 5:6 Jesus said blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness. It seems so strangely out of fashion to desire what is right. It is a secret well-known to those who do, that there awaits an incredible experience, a sense of happiness beyond words. That is what is meant by the word blessed. It is a transcendent happiness that is beyond the fleeting thrills and hilarity of this world, but is otherworldly, eternal. Why? What is right about right? Wrong produces pleasure for a night, a headache tomorrow and grinding burdens for life. The secret is that right may be difficult, but it leaves unspoiled happiness for this life and the next.
The mystery of mercy
Why did Jesus in Matthew 5:7 promote mercy? Examples of Jesus’ mercy in the New Testament were healing the sick and befriending sinners. Our world is filled with cruelty, intolerance, indifference, tyranny, disdain, accusation and punishment. All of these things exhibit a lack of mercy. In a merciless world few people care about the sick or sinners, unless the system can make money off them with high medical costs or isolate the worst sinners in prisons without hope of reform. Yet in the midst of a merciless world are a few who show compassion without a dollar sign attached. There are some tender-hearted souls who work with sinners to guide them towards a better life. Jesus promised that if we show mercy towards the poor and the guilty, we too will be shown mercy. Surely we all need it.
The secret behind mercy
We want justice. We criticize politicians, police, businesses, employees, parents, teachers, neighbors and children. When it comes to criticism of us, we again criticize others for their lack of mercy. Why is this, when we show so little? Why do we want justice served on others, but cry for mercy for ourselves? Why do we show so little mercy? A merciless atmosphere makes us walk on eggshells. Mercy creates an atmosphere of trust. Lack of mercy creates a police-state-like atmosphere of secrecy and distrust. Mercy creates a warm, affirming atmosphere. Without mercy, we tend to cover up problems and leave them unresolved. In an atmosphere of mercy, we are not afraid to admit mistakes and they can be worked on. As Jesus taught in Matthew 5:7 be merciful and when we need it, it will be there for us.
The mystery of pure-heartedness
Are not the pure in heart that Jesus blessed naive and foolish? How can a pure hearted person survive in the real world? The Greek for pure in Matthew 5:8 is used elsewhere to mean clean after having taken a bath (John 13:10). The Pharisees thought that they were righteous if they were clean on the outside. Jesus corrected them by saying that being clean or pure in the eyes of God begins on the inside. It has nothing to do with naivety and yet everything to do with innocence. There is a world of difference. The pure in heart can be wise as serpents and yet remain harmless as doves. Their intent is for good and without pretense. They carry no malice or dishonesty in their hearts. How can the real world survive without such blessed people!
The secret behind pure-heartedness
What would it be like to have a clean heart, free from evil motives? What are the results of a contaminated heart with wrong intentions? Why is the one better than the other? The Pharisees thought they were clean, but their hearts were not pure. With right motives, we want to obey when only God is looking. How do we get a pure heart? It only comes from God (Ezekiel 36:25-27). It comes with the gift of the Holy Spirit. In Matthew 5:8 Jesus suggested that those who have a pure heart will see God. They look beyond mere human conditions to see God. Those with pure motives look for God in everything and thus see him. Old Testament laws regarding being ritually clean or unclean point to this purity of heart. Are our hearts contaminated or pure?
The mystery of making peace
Some people love to fight. They think it’s exciting. Is not making peace a foolish waste of time and money? It has not worked in the Middle East where agitators on all sides ceaselessly instigate mayhem. Yet in Matthew 5:9 Jesus calls the peacemakers blessed. Why? On our planet there is no peace, but imagine a world where nobody tried to referee between sides. It would descend into complete anarchy. Humanity exists in a constant state of hostility. Animosity between people and God, between nations, between governments and their people, within churches and families are an ongoing fact of life. Peacemakers bring a measure of calm to a potentially escalating situation often at great personal sacrifice. While some men love a good fight and look to create strife, only peacemakers are blessed to be called the children of God.
The secret behind making peace
In Matthew 5:9 Jesus said blessed are the peace-MAKERS. He did not say blessed are the peace-attempters, or peace-wish-makers, or peace-hopers. Making peace requires sacrifice, compromise. For two warring factions to make peace, each must be willing to give up something. Negotiations must be a win-win for both sides. That is the hard part. Reconciliation can take a long time, and it is easy to be tempted to give up. If peacemakers are blessed, are peace-breakers cursed? Surely those who stir up trouble, make war and sow discord are loathsome and contemptible people. Nobody likes a troublemaker. History blackens their name and they are despised by all. Pride may prevent us making peace, but necessity demands it. Living in freedom must also include freedom from strife and warfare. Peace does not just happen. It has to be made.
The mystery of being abused for doing right
Did not Jesus say that if they persecute you in one town, flee to the next (Matthew 20:23)? Persecuted means to pursue or chase away. How is that blessed? Why did Jesus call the persecuted blessed in Matthew 5:10-12? How can the harassed be blessed? Some estimate that 60% of Christians today live in countries with heavy restrictions on religious freedom and a quarter of us suffer severe mistreatment. How are we blessed? If that abuse is because of righteousness, then we identify with Jesus. If we cherish what is right, if we love God, if we love his Church, then we will be hated. Just as there is no half-pregnancy, this is also true: we are either on Jesus’ side or not. Persecution for righteousness is a sign that we are blessed to be on God’s side.
The secret behind being abused for doing right
Why are we harassed if we do the right thing, like keeping the speed limit, supporting the boss or avoiding slander? In Matthew 5:10-12 Jesus said blessed are those who are persecuted for doing right. How does that work? It is a fact of life, that if we do the right thing, we will be insulted and vilified. It is a badge of honor to be abused for doing right. It confirms that we are on God’s side. In that sense it is a blessing. The opposite is also true. If everyone loves us and we are never mistreated, maybe we are doing something wrong. Unwanted attention like ridicule and torment is not always because we have done the right thing. Sometime we are at fault. However, when it does come because we were righteous, it is a blessing.
These are secrets of heavenly thinking. Spiritually self-satisfied people are shallow and empty, but those who recognize their spiritual poverty are pleasant. Those who mourn for society’s ills are more ready to change than those who ignore them. Humble people have more friends than the arrogant. Desiring to do right is better than wanting to do wrong. Everyone wants mercy; giving it is golden. Purehearted people are true friends. Everyone wants peace, but few work for it. Doing the right thing is still right, even when others abuse us for it.
The secret is, there is no secret. The beatitudes are not a secret, just ignored. Let us be among those who treasure them and meditate on them often.