Matthew 5: 1 – 13; Luke 6-21 - 26
And seeing the multitudes, He went up on a mountain, and when He was seated His disciples came to Him. 2Then He opened His mouth and taught them, saying: 3“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 4Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted. 5Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth. 6Blessed are those who hunger and thirst after righteousness for they shall be filled. 7Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy. 8 Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God. 9Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God. 10Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 11“Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake. 12Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you. Matthew 5:1-13
And seeing the multitudes Jesus went up into the mountain where there was room for everyone. His disciples - not only his twelve disciples, but everyone who desired to learn of Him, came to Him. “And He opened his mouth” this phrase always denotes an important and solemn discourse “and taught them.” This shows the importance of teaching the Word of God. Our Lord took the time to teach people how to live. The people there took the time to listen and learn.
Our Lord came into the world to save man from his sin, to bless men; to make men happy and give them peace. All men desire, yet few attain, happiness or peace because they look for it in the wrong places. (Read Isaiah 61:1-3 and Proverbs 6:16-19 with the Beatitudes. Proverbs 6:16-19 is the opposite of the Beatitudes and lists things God hates.)
In the original writings of the Beatitudes there are no verbs. There is no word “are” in the original sermon or writings. In the King James Version (KJV) the “are” is in italics. When a word is shown in italics in the KJV it means there is no equivalent word in the Hebrew or Greek. The word “are” was added to bring out the meaning of the sentence for English. An example is Matthew 5:3 which, in the Greek, reads “Blessed the poor in the spirit for theirs is the kingdom of the heavens.”
Each of the beatitudes is formally a declarative sentence; but each requires a response “O the blessedness of the poor in spirit” is an example. The beatitudes deal with what is, and on what will be. They are in the present, and the future. The blessings which belongs to Christ are not postponed blessings. They are blessings that exist in the here and now. The blessings are something into which the Christian has already entered, and into which they will enter sometime in the future. The beatitudes are statements of the unspeakable joy and radiant gladness of living the Christian life.
The word used for bless is an exclamation of the inner joy and peace that comes with being right with God. It describes that joy which is serene and untouchable. That joy which is self-contained and completely independent of all the vagaries and changes that happen in life. The blessings that come with following Christ are completely untouchable and unassailable. Without Christ human happiness is dependent on the vagaries of life and what we experience as humans. True happiness and joy are found only in Christ that is why Christ can call for rejoicing under intense persecution. The Lord’s declaration of “blessed” is a pledge of divine reward for the inner spiritual character of the righteous; it is His description of the spiritual attitude and state of people who are right with God.
Note that the Beatitudes all work together. We often look at them separately when we should look at them as one unit with each building on the other to make a complete blueprint for being a happy person and Christian. Christ gives us eight steps to being a happy person and especially a happy Christian. It is important to realize wealth and/or power are not part of any of the blessings.
Each of the beatitudes has two parts—a pronouncement of blessing and a result of that blessing. Notice that the first and last Beatitudes have the same results: “for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:3 &10). By opening and closing the list this way, Jesus is telling His disciples that all of the blessings, from the first to the last, are of the kingdom. Mourning, gentleness, and peacemaking, for example, are blessed ways of life only if God’s kingdom is indeed coming as well as is already here in the believer. Once again faith is an integral part of the blessed Christian life. We have faith in God’s Word so we can live in assurance the blessings are here now and will come.
Jesus is saying something that is hinted at throughout the Gospels: God’s kingdom is already here, and it also hasn’t yet arrived. (See Matt. 12:28; Luke 11:2.) That’s why He can proclaim the blessing here and now while also speaking about the blessings of a future kingdom. It’s the reason why those who mourn, those who make peace, and those who face persecution are blessed: the kingdom of heaven is already here in Christ and therefore in the believer. Yet there is still a time for mourning, a need for peacemaking, and the threat of persecution because the kingdom has not yet come in its fullness. As Christians, we live in two realities at the same time. We belong to God’s Kingdom and live in that reality. We also live in the physical world and its reality. Our fist allegiance and responsibility is to God’s Kingdom, His Word.
Are the Beatitudes another 8-step program for happiness?
Why or why not?
For each of the Beatitudes:
What does this specific characteristic mean to you?
Can it really be done in our lives?
How do we implement it in a practical way?
How can we help others develop and implement this characteristic?
POOR IN SPIRIT
“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
The Greek word used here for “poor” is well beyond the person who has nothing unnecessary, it describes the man who has nothing at all. The Beatitudes were originally written in Aramaic, not Greek. The Aramaic word used describes the person who, regardless of wealth or lack thereof, puts all their trust in God. If we put together the Greek and the Aramaic definitions, we can translate the passage as “Blessed is the man who has realized his own utter helplessness and who has put his whole trust in God.”
People who are “poor in spirit” are those who are humble before God. The person who realizes their own helplessness and has put their entire trust in God becomes detached from things and attached to God. The person who has become poor in spirit realizes things, position, poverty, wealth, etc. mean nothing and God means everything. They are free from pretensions and therefore they are free for God.
Perhaps the beatitude can be written: O the bliss of the person who has realized their own utter helplessness and has put their whole trust in God. By this alone can that person render to God that perfect obedience which will make them part of the Kingdom of Heaven.
The poor in spirit not only shall have--they already have--the kingdom. The very sense of their spiritual poverty is begun true riches. While others take a false view of themselves and all that is around them the poor in spirit are rich in the knowledge of their true reality, having courage to look this in the face and own it. They feel strong in the assurance that to those who accept Christ as Savior there is light in the darkness (Ps 112:4); and soon it gloriously breaks forth as the morning. God wants nothing from us as the price of His saving gifts; we have but to feel and know our destitution and unworthiness and cast ourselves upon His compassion (Job 33:27,28 1Jo 1:9). The poor in spirit are enriched with the fullness of Christ, which is the kingdom in substance. He will invite them to the full enjoyment of an already possessed inheritance.
Those who have humbled themselves and become dependent on God--they have the kingdom of heaven. In fact, everyone who is in the kingdom must become poor in spirit. Everyone must come with a broken heart and a contrite spirit seeking the Savior.
Ps 40:17 Isa 41:17). (Jas 2:5 2Co 6:10 Re 2:9 (Ps 73:12 Lu 6:20,21 (Ps 10:12,17 (Ps 22:26 (Pr 3:34), as Lu 10:21 Joh 11:33 13:21 Ac 20:22 Ro 12:11 1Co 5:3 Php 3:3 (Re 3:17,18 Mt 9:12,13).
THOSE WHO MOURN
Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.
To start we must note that the Greek word used for “to mourn” here is the strongest word for mourning in the Greek language. It is the word used for mourning for the dead. It is the kind of grief and mourning that takes such a hold on a person it cannot be hidden. The words used are the same words used to express Jacob’s grief when he thought his son Joseph was dead. This mourning is mourning for those dead without Christ. Though they are alive physically they are dead spiritually.
For mourning to be “in the faith,” it will be a mourning not just for the suffering and sadness of life, but for the sinfulness that causes it. Those who mourn understand that their grieving is for a world that is lost and ruined. A world in which God and His will do not prevail. The instruction here concerns the focus of the mourning, not the mourning itself. The mourning that will be comforted is the mourning of Christ’s disciples, those who have the proper understanding of the reasons for the mourning. And they will have the proper faith to see them through.
This beatitude can be taken as:
Blessed is the person who has endured the bitterest sorrow that life can bring.
Blessed are those who are desperately sorry for the sorrowing and suffering of the world. Christianity is caring.
Blessed is the person who is desperately sorry for his own sin and unworthiness.
All of the above.
One of the great results of the cross is to open our eyes to the absolute horror of sin. When we see the absolute horror of sin we can only experience deep intense sorrow for our sin and the sins of the world. We are also driven to care for others and help them to see the horror of sin. Christianity is caring.
Blessed is the person who is intensely sorry for their sin and is truly broken hearted for what sin has done to God, Jesus the Christ and the world. Blessed is the person who sees the cross and is appalled by the havoc wrought by sin. This is the person who will be comforted for this is the truly repentant person.
Perhaps the meaning of this beatitude can be translated:
O the bliss of the person whose heart is broken for the world’s suffering, sin and for their own sin, for out of their sorrow they will find the joy in God.
Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.
In the Bible the meek are those who have a spirit of gentleness and self-control; they are free from malice and a condescending spirit. The meek may appear, like the poor, with no resources of their own. But they do have resources. Moses was described as being meek and humble () but knew his resources were in God and were infinite. The meek do not exploit and oppress others; they are not given to vengeance and vendettas, they are not violent, and they do not try to seize power for their own ends. In short, they have emulated the nature of Jesus in their lives and learned from Him. This certainly does not mean that they are weak or ineffective in life.
The word “meek” carries a negative connotation in our society. We look at a meek person as being weak, unable to face the trials of life. This is the present baggage the word carries with it. This was not always the case. It so happens the word meek (in Greek praus) was one of the great Greek ethical words. Aristotle defines meekness as the mean between excessive anger and excessive lack of anger. Meekness to the Greeks (and hence how it is used in the Scriptures) is the happy medium between two much and two little anger. This makes a possible translation of the verse to be:
Blessed is the person who is always angry at the right time and never angry at the wrong time.
We can see this in the actions of Christ. He was angry with the moneychangers in the temple but not angry with the woman taken in adultery. These two actions can be a guide for us when we look at when and why we get angry. It is not appropriate to be angry for an insult or injury done to ourselves, but it may often be right to be angry at insult or injury done to others, especially to God, Christ and the Holy Spirit.
The Greek word praus has a second standard Greek usage. It is the word used for an animal that has been domesticated. It is the word for an animal that has learned to accept control. This leads to a second possible translation of the verse:
Blessed is the man who every instinct, every impulse, every passion under control. Blessed is the man who is totally self-controlled. I would take this a bit further and say Blessed is the person who has allowed God to control their every passion, instinct and impulse of their life.
Without meekness (using the Greek definition) a person cannot learn. Learning requires a person to admit they do not know everything. The learner must lose some of their pride and lofty self image, otherwise it is impossible to learn from another person. The direction people should follow to cultivate a spirit of meekness would be to walk by the Spirit, be controlled by the Spirit of God so that the qualities of Christ can be produced in and through them.
A person reaches true maturity when they are always conscious that they are the creature and God is the creator and without God the person can do nothing. This leads to another possible translation:
Blessed is the man who has the humility to know his own ignorance, his own weakness and his own need.
Jesus makes it very clear that the person who has self-control, the person who has their passions, impulses and instincts under control. They that hold all their passions and affections evenly balanced. They shall inherit the earth - they shall have all things truly necessary for life and Godliness. Alexander the Great, Napoleon, etc, were not able to do this and could not inherit the world. Moses, Abraham Lincoln and others did have it and are seen as great leaders.
The word praus means much more than the word meek means in our present society. In some ways the present meaning of meek is the opposite of the original meaning and use.
Looking at all of this perhaps the best translation would be:
O the bliss of the person who is always angry at the right time and never angry at the wrong time. The person who has every instinct, passion and impulse under control because they are God-controlled. The person who has the humility to recognize and realize his own ignorance and weakness for such people are the true inheritors of the earth.
HUNGER AND THIRST FOR RIGHTEOUSNESS
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst after righteousness for they shall be filled.
This one of the most demanding and perhaps the most thought provoking of them all. Hunger and thirst constantly cry out for satisfaction; it is a basic human drive. The image then is portraying the desire to do the will of God as being that constant and strong. Most of us here do not know what it is like to be truly hunger and truly thirsty. We do not know what it is like to be on the edge of death from starvation or thirst. Esau knew that experience and, instead of trusting God, sold his birthright to Jacob for some food.
Many people in the time of Jesus knew what it is like to be one step away from starvation. The average wage was three pennies a day. Even given the difference in purchasing power, this is not much. In times of crop failure there was a real danger of starvation for those on the margins. Even those with wealth could not buy food where there was none. People then could not turn on a tap and get water. They could not go down to their local store and buy water. If a person was in the desert and a storm blew up there was a good chance they could die of thirst before the storm blew out and they found water. People in these conditions know what it is to truly hunger and thirst. Their life depends on finding water and food.
We have already thought about righteousness with its meaning of conforming to the standard, i.e., doing the will of God. Here the word probably has two meanings. One would certainly be in the personal life--the strong desire to be pleasing to God, to do what God wants, to live up to the will of God. But out of this would grow the desire for righteousness in the land, for social justice in a world that is unrighteous and unjust. The desire for personal righteousness cannot be separated from righteousness for the world around us.
This is the hunger and thirsting Jesus is speaking of here. He is speaking of the person who recognizes they will die if they cannot feed on spiritual food and drink spiritual drink. It becomes much more important than physical food and drink. Jesus referred to this food and drink when he met the woman at the well. He told the woman the person who took a drink from His well would never go thirsty. After His disciples came back with food Jesus told them He had already eaten. Since the disciples saw no food they did not understand. Jesus said He had food of which they knew nothing. He was eating spiritual food which is much more satisfying. Jesus makes it very plain during the Last Supper that He is speaking of that spiritual food and drink that saves from death and satisfies eternally. Luke 22: 17 – 20; Mark 14: 22 – 24
An important thing to remember is Jesus said blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, He did not say blessed are those who attained righteousness. If the blessing is only for those who attain it none of us should be blessed since none of us are completely and truly righteous, not one.
The way this passage is written in the Greek is a bit unusual. Normally it would be written “I hunger for some of the bread” or “I thirst for some of the water.” In both cases the meaning is wanting some bread or some water. It is not asking for all of the bread or all of the water. This passage is different in that it is written “I want the whole loaf” or “I want the entire well.” This makes the passage better translated as:
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for the whole of righteousness, for complete righteousness.
People seldom hunger or thirst for the whole of righteousness. We are content with a piece of it. Enough to take off the edge but not enough to be truly filled. To be truly filled can be a awesome and frightening thing. To be truly filled means we can see our own unworthiness and are responsible to carry the food to others. It changes our lives or at least should. Christianity is caring. When we hunger and thirst after righteousness we begin to truly care about others being filled also.
The great thing about hungering and thirsting after righteousness is, once we start to be filled and we truly care for others, we become truly satisfied. We have a satisfaction that material things cannot begin to touch. Satisfaction comes from following righteousness. The closer one lives to the Lord, the more sensitive he or she becomes to the unrighteousness and injustice in the world. The truly spiritual person then will begin to long for and active work for righteousness.
Perhaps the best translation of this passage might be:
O the bliss of the person who longs for total righteousness as a starving person longs for food and a person dying of thirst longs for water for that person will be truly satisfied.
7Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.
Christ is insistent that to be forgiven we must be forgiving. When He taught us to pray He included “Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us.” (Matt. 6:15) The forgiveness we receive is tied to the forgiveness we give. If we refuse to forgive how can we then ask for forgiveness. This theme is carried throughout the New Testament. (Mt 18:23-35; Mt 5:23,24 James 2:13. Col 3:13 Eph 4:32: Lu 6:37 Jas 5:9.)
The Hebrew word for mercy is chesedh. Chesedh means the ability to get right inside the other person until we can see things with their eyes, think things with their minds and feel things with their feelings. It is similar to our word empathy but is really a combination of what we term sympathy and empathy. It is far beyond pity. It requires no demands. It is a very deliberate effort of the mind and will. Sympathy means a feeling of care and concern for someone, accompanied by a wish to see the person better off or happier. Empathy is a person’s ability to recognize and share the emotions of another person. It involves, first, seeing someone else’s situation from their perspective, and, second, sharing their emotions.
These people are called blessed because they place showing mercy above their own rights; they take no hostile stand against people but try to show kindness to others and heal wounds. It is not that they are merciful by nature, but because they have been shown mercy and live in constant dependence on the Lord. It is important, then, that people have a good understanding of the grace of God in their own lives.
If we make a deliberate attempt and achieve identification with the other person it makes a great difference. It is also demanding. It is an act of Christian love that carries a great responsibility and great reward. Once we learn something, we are responsible for that knowledge. We are responsible to use that knowledge to benefit others. It is the same with being truly merciful. It demands action.
Being truly merciful stops us from being kind in the wrong way. Often we want to be, and try to be, kind but our actions are predicated on our experience and our feelings. That is not necessarily a bad thing but, since our experience is not the same as their experience, is not always the most useful or appropriate thing to do. Being merciful (chesedh) takes us into the experience and life of the other person. It also helps us to be sensitive to the guiding of the Holy Spirit for that circumstance and need. Our actions are then predicated on the true need as revealed by the Spirit and the guidance of the Holy Spirit to serve that need.
There is always a reason a person thinks and acts as they do. The issue is what is behind their thinking and actions. Once we know the true reason it makes understanding, forgiveness and tolerance much easier because we approach the others through the love of Christ, understanding and being a part of their experience through the Holy Spirit.
This is what God has done for us through Christ. While we were in sin He came to save us. We need to take the same road. We need to be blind to the apparent condition of a person and see them through the eyes of Christ. This is the point Cervantes was making with Don Quixote and Dulcinea. Don Quixote saw what she could be, not her apparent and immediate circumstances.
In the parable of the unmerciful debtor, the servant to whom his lord forgave ten thousand dollars was naturally expected to exercise the small measure of the same compassion required for forgiving his fellow servant's debt of a hundred pennies. It is only when, instead of this, he imprisoned him till he should pay it up, that his lord's indignation was roused. The servant treated with mercy is then treated with the same wrath he treated others. (Mt 18:23-35; and see Mt 5:23,24 6:15 Jas 2:13).
As we look at this verse perhaps we can translate it:
The bliss of the person who gets inside other people, until s/he can feel with their feelings, see with their eyes and think with their thoughts. They will know what God in Jesus the Christ has done for them also.
PURE IN HEART
Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.
The Greek word for pure is katharos. Katharos has a variety of meanings. It means:
- Corn that has been winnowed, sifted and cleaned of all chaff
- When used with akeratos it is used for milk or wine that is unadulterated with water, or metal with no tinge of alloy.
Katharos means completely unmixed, unadulterated, unalloyed. It describes both an inner purity and a singleness of mind. The “heart” is used in the Bible for the will, the choices. And so to be pure in heart means that the decisions one makes, the desires one has, the thoughts and intentions of the will, are untarnished by sin and that the will is determined to be subject to and pleasing to God. From the pure of heart come only good things, acts of love and mercy, desires for righteousness and justice, decisions that please God. This can lead us to translate the verse:
Blessed is the person whose motives and actions are entirely unmixed, unadulterated with sin, for that person shall see God.
The pure in heart are those who are free from evil desires and purposes. They are free from the “wants to” of sin. This does not mean they do not sin but, like David, do not want to sin and truly repent when they do. They have that similarity of life to the divine life which excludes all uncleanness, and which enables them to comprehend, to a certain extent, the motives and actions of God. The pure in heart see God by faith now, by the spiritual vision of a regenerate heart (Ephesians 1:17,18), and shall see Him face to face hereafter (1 Corinthians 13:12; 1 John 3:2,3). The transformation from a heart of flesh to a pure heart will come by following Christ, but it is not an easy or a swift change. Those who enter the kingdom of righteousness must have this new heart.
The Jews to whom Christ spoke, having their hearts defiled with carnal hopes and self-righteous pride, failed to see God, as He reveals Himself in the person of his Son. The same can be said for many churchgoers today. They are much like the Jews in Jesus’ day. This is a sad contrast to the gracious promise of the beatitude.
In every part of life we see what we are able to see and that is partially determined by our paradigms and what we want to see. Do we have carnal or spiritual eyes? Do we want to see the things of God or of man? Christ said to “be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matt 5:48). Learning to live by the word of God, will change the way we think so that our hearts will grow more and more pure. As the light of the Word reveals impurities, we must deal with them and seek the Holy Spirit’s help to change. This beatitude is a warning and exhortation to keep our hearts clean. We are preparing ourselves to either see or not see God.
Perhaps a final translation could be:
O the bliss of the person whose motives are absolutely pure, for that person will one day be able to see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.
In Greek the word for peace is eirene and in Hebrew it is shalom. In Hebrew peace is never a negative state, it is never just the absence of trouble but rather it always means everything which makes for a person’s highest good. When a one person says to another shalom he does not mean he wishes for the other person simply the absence of evil things but the presence of all good things. Shalom is an active peace, not a passive peace.
A second thing to note is in the beatitude the blessing is not on the peace lover but rather peace maker. Again, this is active, not passive. The peace maker is not someone who hopes for peace and ignores reality but the person who recognizes reality and works for peace. The peace that Christ calls blessed does not come from an evasion of issues but rather from dealing with them through the leading of the Holy Spirit. A very important distinction to make here is we are talking of the person who works for God’s peace, not man’s peace. When we work for man’s peace we usually do more harm than good since it is not led by the Holy Spirit. True peace that the world needs calls for a complete change of nature. Only God can give this kind of peace. It is a peace that the world does not understand (). It begins with reconciliation with God and extends to reconciliation with other people. The person who makes peace is engaged in the very work which the God of peace is doing. (Romans 15; 33; 2 Corinthians 13: 11; 1 Thess. 5:23; Hebrews 13:20.
This passage can be taken to mean blessed are those who make this world a better place for all people. It can also be taken to mean blessed are those who have peace with God in their own heart and own soul. There is another meaning which was emphasized by the Rabbis. It is blessed is the person who works to establish right relationships between man and man. The promise to peacemakers is that they shall be called the sons of God. That means they will be true children of God.
There are always people who seem to be the epicenter of trouble, chaos and confusion. Wherever they are there are quarrels, dissension and strife either between them and others or between others, but caused by them. These are the trouble-makers. The person who divides people for strife is doing Satan’s work. (Romans 16:17-20) The person who unites people through Christ is doing God’s work.
I must put in a caution here. The peace makers are those who establish right relations between people and people to God through the leading of the Holy Spirit. A peacemaker is not the person who unites people by accepting anything and everything. The true peace-maker is the person who unites by standing on the Word and promises of God. Without the Word and promises of God there is no true peace. The disciples of Jesus should be promoting peace. They do this by spreading the Gospel of peace to the world, and by promoting reconciliation within the household of faith as well. In short, they should be doing the work of the Messiah.
Perhaps a translation of this verse might be:
Blessed are those who produce right relationships between man and man, and man and God for they are doing the work of God as His children.
“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.”
Note that the eighth and ninth “blessed” are one unit with the ninth expanding on the eighth and taking it from general to individual. Part of the persecution will be insults, slander, lying about a person, etc. This is in addition to more physical types of persecution but no less hurtful and harmful.
After the blessing above Jesus tells us what happens when we follow Him and implement what He just said. We will be persecuted. There are two things to note here. The first is that Jesus never makes false promises. We are not promised a new car, lots of money, etc. We are promised peace now and for eternity and an inheritance in the Kingdom of Heaven. The second is that living a joyful life does not mean we will not have trouble. Joy is not predicated on an absence of trouble. A peaceful spirit is not predicated on an absence of trouble. Joy and peace come from the working of the Holy Spirit internally for each person. They are not dependent on external factors.
The eight characters here described in the Beatitudes are all contrary to the spirit of the world. The hearers of this discourse must have been startled, and had their whole system of thought and action rudely dashed. We in this day are no different.
Poverty of spirit runs counter to the pride of men's heart.
A pensive disposition, in the view of one's universal deficiencies before God, is not relished by the callous, indifferent, laughing, self-satisfied world.
A meek and quiet spirit, taking wrong, is regarded as weak, and rasps against the proud, resentful spirit of the world.
Craving after spiritual blessings rebukes the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eye, and the pride of life.
A merciful spirit rebukes the hard-heartedness of the world.
Purity of heart contrasts painfully with painted hypocrisy.
The peacemaker cannot easily be endured by the contentious, quarrelsome world.
Thus does "righteousness" come to be "persecuted."
Despite this, blessed are they who dare to be righteous. It is not for the weak of faith or the half-hearted follower of Christ.
Truly following Christ and implementing the Beatitudes disrupts the life of the believer and those around them. If we follow Christ we can no longer take part in those business or personal actions that work against Him and the Kingdom of Heaven. If the building contractor is offered the contract to build a pagan place of worship they cannot do it. If the newspaper owner is asked to run ads for a pornographic movie they cannot do it. It is not always easy but it is always necessary for our spiritual well being and our communion with God.
The one thing to remember about Christianity is that it is exclusionary. That is, if we truly accept Jesus is the Savior of the world then we cannot say other religions are right in their own way or just as good as Christianity. Either Christ is salvation or He is not. This brings us into conflict with the world at many, many points. Christ knew this and, in this last section, warns us what will happen. I must add that Christianity is also inclusive. Anyone can accept Christ as their personal savior.
In the early church accepting the salvation of Christ often brought a high probability of death. It almost certainly brought a division in the family and often business loss. In our time some of the penalties are more subtle. We are ridiculed, can face job loss, financial and perhaps division in the family and loss of friends because we stand up for Christ.
Note that Jesus equates being persecuted for righteousness and being persecuted for His name sake as the same thing. The message here is clear, Jesus is the embodiment of righteousness. This would have been a shocking statement to His listeners at the time. It is still a shocking statement to many today. Standing up for Christ is standing up for righteousness. The immediate result can be persecution. The long-term result is our reward in heaven for eternity.
The final sentence in this passage states it best. There will be trouble and persecution but: “Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” (James 1:2-6) What will happen is nothing new and the reward is great.
William Barclay, The Gospel of Matthew, Volume 1
Wesley’s Expository Notes,
Matthew Henry’s Commentary
Holy Bible, New International Translation.
Holy Bible, King James (Authorized) Translation