The Beatitudes are a refreshing way to approach the way we live out our lives. Beatitude comes from the word in Latin “benedicere” which means to bless or to say something good. In Greek the word for beatitude comes from the word makarios1 which refers to the happiness one who is treated favourably experiences. If you read through the Psalms and the book of Proverbs, you will come across almost fifty different “beatitudes.” They all come in the form of, “blessed is the one who…” – like in Psalm 1 where it says, “Blessed indeed is the man who follows not the counsel of the wicked, nor goes in the way of sinners, nor sits in the company of scorners. He is like a tree that is planted beside the flowing waters.” The Old Testament beatitudes talk about how much happier human life is for those who obey the commandments of God. The New Testament Beatitudes talk about how much happier eternal life is than this one. You see, Jesus knows that we want to be happy, and He wants us to be supremely happy. The trick is, we have to adjust our perspective from living just to be happy in this world, to living for the next.
The Beatitudes are interesting because Jesus doesn’t say, “you have to do this or you will be punished.” The Beatitudes aren’t the same as the Ten Commandments. We have to follow the Ten Commandments – they are the difference between right and wrong. The Beatitudes are an invitation into a better way of life, and Jesus gives us a lot of freedom to choose that path of happiness. Jesus says to the rich young man who obeyed the commandments from his youth, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell what you have, give to the poor and come follow me.” If you obey the commandments, and you want to be perfect (which means supremely happy) then follow Jesus in living out the Beatitudes.
The Beatitudes go against a lot of our natural inclinations because most of them involve some kind of suffering. Clearly Jesus isn’t telling us that suffering itself is great. What He is telling us however, is that certain kinds of suffering are gateways through which the Spirit of God passes into Holy Souls who welcome Him. Being poor in spirit involves some suffering because we have to let go of our selfishness, let go of our ego, let go of control, and leave ourselves open to the bigger, infinite Spirit. We are supremely happy if we are poor in spirit though, because the kingdom of God expands within us. Supreme happiness is something we can only receive from God, and we are free to receive it at His invitation. That happiness comes in the form of a seed, a seed of grace planted in our souls. When we live out the beatitudes, God Himself blesses its growth.
- In the NT there are two groups of terms that primarily contribute to the biblical concept of blessing. The verb εὐλογέω (eulogeō, “to bless”) refers generally to the act of speaking to effect favorable circumstances for someone or something, and the related noun εὐλογία (eulogia, “blessing”) denotes the advantageous situation resulting from God’s favorable actions toward someone. This family of words is usually used in the Septuagint to translate Hebrew bārak and bĕrākâ. Greek μακαρίζω (makarizō, “to call blessed”) and the related adjective μακάριος (makarios, “blessed”) are used in the Septuagint to translate Hebrew ʾāšar and ʾašrê and also appear in the NT in the same sense.