What Are The Beatitudes? (the beatitudes explained simply)

The Beatitudes open up the most famous sermon Jesus ever preached, the Sermon On The Mount. This is a powerful message that teaches us about how we can find the blessed life that Jesus promised… And it’s NOT what you think.

In this blog post we are going to look at the meaning of the Beatitudes and see what it holds for us. And if you spend just a few minutes looking at Jesus’ words I think your life and faith will be encouraged and challenged. 

Let’s dive in! 

What Are The Beatitudes? 

Before we look at the Beatitudes meaning we need to look at what the Beatitudes are. It’s a strange word that you don’t hear anywhere and most don’t know what it actually means. 

Dr Tom Constable gives us this definition of the word beatitude, “The English word “beatitude” comes from the Latin word for “blessed,” beatus.” 

And what we are going to see is Jesus continually saying, “Blessed are the __________.” Jesus is implying that these people are the ones who are blessed, who should be in a state of divine happiness. 

What’s interesting is that these people that Jesus says are blessed are not the people the world would look at as blessed. But Jesus is showing us a different way, a better way to live. 

The Beatitudes are a teaching about how to be “Full of Blessing” or “Full of God, fully and wholly satisfied in God, connected to God and having God live in you.” Simply put, Jesus is saying this is how to have the good life, the best life, the life intended for you to live.

Now that we know the Beatitudes definition, let’s look at the Beatitudes meaning. 

The Beatitudes Meaning 

This passage of scripture starts off with the setting of the scene. 

“Now when Jesus saw the crowds, he went up on a mountainside and sat down. His disciples came to him, and he began to teach them.” Matthew 5:1-2

For all the Jews in the crowd, this image of Jesus sitting on a mountainside would have reminded them of Moses coming down the mountain revealing God’s law, the Ten Commandments, to the Israelites. But this time Jesus isn’t giving us a list of “dos” and “don’ts.” Instead, he’s saying, “this is how things really are and how my Kingdom really works.”

We are going to go verse by verse through this passage to see what the meaning of the Beatitudes is for us today. Rather than complicating it, I hope to explain the Beatitudes simply.

Blessed Are The Poor In Spirit Meaning (Matthew 5:3)

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” Matthew 5:3

We tend to think of the poor as those who don’t have enough physical resources. But here Jesus means something different. “Poor in spirit” refers to one’s spiritual condition. Those that are poor in spirit realize that nothing they can do can get them into heaven. They are powerless, helpless, and undeserving. 

Now that doesn’t sound like someone who is blessed, does it? But they are blessed because Jesus has not forgotten them. They are promised the kingdom of heaven. 

This flies in the face of the way the world operates. It’s the strongest and most put-together people that get the good life. But not so in God’s kingdom. It’s those that become poor, those that recognize their own need, those that cry out for their Savior, that will receive the kingdom.

If we want the best life each of us must first make ourselves poor in spirit. We must recognize our dire situation, and that the only way out is to depend on God. 

The Beatitudes Explained Simply: Blessed are those who recognize their dire need for God, for God will bring them into his Kingdom. 

Blessed Are Those Who Mourn Meaning (Matthew 5:4)

“Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.” Matthew 5:4

Jesus isn’t talking about mourning over the loss of a loved one. Although that is talked about elsewhere (Isaiah 40:1, Isaiah 61:1). Here Jesus is speaking of the mourning of repentance. That we should mourn over our sin and mistakes. 

Jesus is continuing the theme that was started in the previous verse. First, he says blessed are those who recognize their sinfulness and need of a savior. Now he adds blessed are those who mourn for their sin, for they will be comforted.

Jesus is saying that in the brokenness of your sin God is with you. It is in that brokenness that you will find hope, healing, and experience the good life, life to the fullest. 

The Beatitudes Explained Simply: Blessed are those who mourn their sin, for God will forgive them and restore them to the life he intended them to have. 

Blessed Are The Meek Meaning (Matthew 5:5)

“Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.” Matthew 5:5

In Jesus’ previous statements he was describing our personal recognition of our circumstances. Now Jesus switches gears, and he starts talking about our outward posture and expression.

Meek is a word that we don’t often use in today’s culture. And when we do, we don’t tend to think of it in a positive light. 

Oxford Dictionary defines meek as, “quiet, gentle, and always ready to do what other people want without expressing your own opinion.”

I think a better understanding of meekness is, “strength under control.” 

Think of a dad wrestling with his kids. The dad could end it; he could just knock a kid out and end it right there. But instead, he uses his strength for the benefit of his kids. That’s meekness. That’s strength under control.

This is what Jesus is calling us to today. He is calling us to have our strength under control. He’s calling us to leverage our strength for the benefit of others. He’s calling us to not throw our weight around to get what we deserve. After all, we have no need to. We are sons and daughters of the King.

The Beatitudes Explained Simply: Blessed are those who have their strength under control, for they will inherit the earth.

Blessed Are Those Who Hunger For Righteousness Meaning (Matthew 5:6)

“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.” Matthew 5:6

Jesus is probably reflecting on Psalm 42:1-2 when he says this. Many of us have heard that psalm before, and we probably picture Bambi calmly drinking out of a quiet stream. 

That’s not the picture David was trying to paint. Instead, this is a picture of an animal desperately crawling through the desert looking for water so that they could survive. Jesus is referring to the same kind of hunger and thirst. It’s a desperate, if I don’t get this I will die, kind of craving for God.

Jesus is saying blessed are those that are so desperate to do the will of God that it’s the only thing of importance in their life. They will be filled, their thirst will be quenched, and their hunger satisfied. 

The Beatitudes Explained Simply: Blessed are those who are desperate to do the will of God, for they will long for nothing.

Blessed Are The Merciful Meaning (Matthew 5:7)

“Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.” Matthew 5:7

We live in a culture that likes to give people what they deserve, no mercy. But there’s a double standard isn’t there? While we like to see others get what they deserve, when we make a mistake we want mercy. 

The reality is, grace seems unfair until YOU need some. 

Jesus is teaching us that the good life comes to those that offer what is undeserved, mercy. 

Many people hold on tightly to wrongs that have been done against them. And don’t miss this, they are justified in doing so, they were wronged. However, by holding onto those wrongs they are letting go of God’s mercy. You cannot hold onto both. 

The good life will not come to those that hang onto past grievances. It will not come to those that are stingy with their grace. The good life belongs to those that give the undeserved gift of grace because they were given an undeserved gift of grace.

The Beatitudes Explained Simply: Blessed are those who show mercy and forgive, for they understand the mercy that’s been shown to them. 

Blessed Are The Pure In Heart Meaning (Matthew 5:8)

“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.” Matthew 5:8

In Luke 16:15 we are told that God looks at the heart. In other words, God looks past our outward facade at what’s really going on inside us. 

The religious leaders in Jesus’ day were hung up on ceremonial cleanliness. They had a habit of fixing their external appearance while ignoring what was on the inside. Jesus continually called them out on their actions because he saw through their facade.

We too often focus on our outward appearances but ignore our hearts. We think we can just look the part. But Jesus comes along and says something different. He says it’s the pure in heart that are blessed. In other words, you shouldn’t focus on fixing your actions. Instead, focus your heart on Jesus.

That’s not to say our actions don’t matter, they do. We’ve just reversed the order. When you focus on your actions, your heart will not change. When you focus on your heart, your actions will soon follow. Simply put, Jesus is saying the blessed are those who do the right things for the right reasons. The emphasis is on the motive behind the actions, not the actions themselves.

The Beatitudes Explained Simply: Blessed are those who focus on the motive of their actions, for they shall see God. 

Blessed Are The Peace Makers Meaning (Matthew 5:9) 

“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.” Matthew 5:9

When Jesus uses the word peacemakers, he is saying this: one who has received the peace of God AND brings peace to others. Not simply one who makes peace, but one who spreads the peace of God that he/she has experienced.

When Jesus says, “blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God,” this is not just a statement of relationships, but of character. In Jesus’ day when you called someone a son of a {Fill in the Blank} they were saying that you acted like that. Good or bad. 

So when Jesus says, “blessed are the peacemakers,” he’s saying God is a peacemaker. God pursued peace with us when we had absolutely no interest in peace with him. Jesus is also saying something about us. He’s saying that when we pursue peace we are being like God. To be called a “Son of God” was unheard of to the crowd listening. It’s commonplace for us today. But this was a revolutionary teaching. 

The Beatitudes Explained Simply: Blessed are those who have received peace and bring peace to others, for they are the sons and daughters of God. 

Blessed Are Those Who Are Persecuted Meaning (Matthew 5:10-12)

“Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account.” Matthew 5:10-11

We certainly wouldn’t describe someone who is being persecuted as blessed in our culture. But there’s something powerful hear that we can’t just skip past. 

First we need to not skip Jesus’ words. He says blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness sake. There are some Christians that get persecuted for saying and doing some really dumb, and hurtful, things that Jesus never stood for. But when we are persecuted for the things Jesus was persecuted for, then we are blessed. 

The Beatitudes Explained Simply: Blessed are you when you are persecuted when what you say and do are consistent with what Jesus says and does.

But Jesus isn’t done yet… 

“Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” Matthew 5:12

Even though we don’t like the persecution part I think for the most part we get it. After all, we serve a King who was crucified. 

But come on… Rejoice and be glad?! Are you serious Jesus?! 

Let’s take a deeper look at what Jesus is saying so that we can understand this Beatitudes meaning. 

That word rejoice is an interesting word. It’s been translated a bunch of different ways in English. But in the Greek, it was one word and used in many different ways. It was a greeting. So it could be translated as “greetings” or “hail.” The phrase “be glad” means rejoicing in hope, excessive joy. It means to be joyful beyond what your circumstance should allow.

So the question becomes, how can Jesus say be glad in the context of being lied about, criticized, falsely accused, and persecuted? How can he say rejoice, be glad, have joy to you?

You need to understand the weight of his words. He’s not saying this in a trivial sense. He’s not telling us to fake it, to grin and bear it. What he’s saying is that there is something in us that endures beyond your current circumstances. There is something in you that despite how dark and bad your life might be, you can still rejoice.

That’s the Gospel message. That no matter how bad life gets we can rejoice. Not in our circumstance, but in who Jesus is. That’s what Paul is getting at in Philippians 4:11, that he has learned the secret to being content

And let us not forget we serve a God who not just tells us to do this, but modeled it for us on the cross. 

The Beatitudes Explained Simply: Blessed are you who can rejoice in the worst moments in life, for you have found the true treasure. 

Jeffery Curtis Poor
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