Jesus gave us keys to real happiness known as the Beatitudes. What are the eight Beatitudes, and how can they help us experience lasting joy in our lives?
What are the Beatitudes?
Jesus began His Sermon on the Mount listing eight spiritual traits that will lead to true happiness. They are:
- Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
- Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.
- Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.
- Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be filled.
- Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.
- Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.
- Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.
- Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake (Matthew 5:4-11).
These spiritual traits of character are known as the Beatitudes, from the Latin word for happy or blessed, since each of these verses start with the word blessed (Matthew 5:3-11).
The Greek word makarios, which is translated blessed, means to be “supremely blest; by extension, fortunate, well off—blessed, happy, (happier)” (Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance, #3107).
William Barclay’s Daily Study Bible gives a deeper look at this important word that leads into each of the Beatitudes:
“Makarios . . . describes that joy which has its secret within itself, that joy which is serene and untouchable, and self-contained, that joy which is completely independent of all the chances and the changes of life.
“The English word happiness gives its own case away. It contains the root hap which means chance. Human happiness is something which is dependent on the chances and the changes of life, something which life may give and which life may also destroy.
“The Christian blessedness is completely untouchable and unassailable. ‘No one,’ said Jesus, ‘will take your joy from you’ (John 16:22). The beatitudes speak of that joy which seeks us through our pain, that joy which sorrow and loss, and pain and grief, are powerless to touch, that joy which shines through tears, and which nothing in life or death can take away.”
The Beatitudes study
The eight Beatitudes each follow a pattern or structure.
“The Beatitudes are comprised of three elements: a pronouncement of blessing, a quality of life, and a reason why the recipient should be considered blessed. The first element is found in the word Blessed (see Ps. 1:1), which introduces each beatitude. The second element does not describe different groups of people, but a composite picture of the kind of person who will inherit Christ’s kingdom. The third element looks ahead to some aspect of the coming kingdom” (NKJV Study Bible note on Matthew 5:3-12).
After each spiritual trait, Jesus Christ gave the outcome it will produce—the blessing it will bring. These blessings will reach their complete fulfillment in the Kingdom of God, but these blessings also have an aspect for this life.
Many of them can seem counterintuitive at first glance. How can someone who is mourning or being persecuted be blessed or happy? Let’s take a deeper look.
How can we achieve true happiness?
The average person living in a developed nation today enjoys a level of comfort and security unknown to those who lived in prior centuries. Compared to individuals living in poorer countries, people living in the more affluent nations have access to a wealth of resources, utilities, opportunities, conveniences and services.
But has prosperity brought lasting peace and happiness? Feelings of frustration, emptiness and dissatisfaction run high in the world. Why do people who have so much feel so discontented?
Along with seeking happiness, people want a peaceful life. The quest for peace, happiness and well-being fostered the self-help movement. Many people have been helped by adding exercise, relaxation and positive thinking to their lives. Others have found temporary excitement or relief in stimulants and depressants. But neither self-help nor drugs and alcohol can tap into the source of real happiness.
The overlooked spiritual component to happiness
There is a spiritual component to happiness that has been overlooked by many people. Our Creator provided an instruction book for life, the Holy Bible. Here God explains the dimension that is missing in human knowledge—the spiritual element.
Jesus founded the New Testament Church on Himself and the Bible—God’s Word. His teaching is a religion of love and of law. It has a spiritual component, the Holy Spirit, which is the presence and power of God.
Christianity includes emotions, such as love, joy and concern for others; and it includes rules—the law of God, as explained by Christ and the apostles. In the Bible we find that the ultimate goal of Christianity is not temporary happiness. It is something greater!
The goal of an individual Christian is transformation (conversion) of the mind—to become a new creation who thinks and lives the same way Jesus Christ did. Jesus explained the spiritual traits of character that produce a state of joy that persists apart from and in spite of circumstances.The goal of an individual Christian is transformation (conversion) of the mind—to become a new creation who thinks and lives the same way Jesus Christ did. Jesus explained the spiritual traits of character that produce a state of joy that persists apart from and in spite of circumstances.
What do the Beatitudes teach us?
Consider the first Beatitude. A feeling of personal adequacy and self-worth is not necessary to experience the happiness that Jesus Christ described. Jesus said that the “poor in spirit” are blessed because “theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:3).
Why would those who are humble and without any self-importance find happiness that often eludes the wealthy and self-confident?
Those who are poor in spirit have no illusions of pride and self-importance. They recognize their personal inadequacy and human frailty. They relate to God as dependent beings, looking to Him as the Source of all things. They put their confidence and trust in God, not in themselves or others.
That trust will be blessed, and they will find ultimate fulfillment serving with Christ in His Kingdom.
What about the second Beatitude? For those who mourn, Jesus says they will be comforted. (According to Barnes’ Notes on the Bible, “This is capable of two meanings: either, that those are blessed who are afflicted with the loss of friends or possessions, or that they who mourn over sin are blessed.”)
God is the “God of all comfort,” and He promises that someday all sorrow will be wiped away (2 Corinthians 1:3; Revelation 21:4).
And so it goes with all the Beatitudes. Those who are meek (humble) will inherit the earth. Those who hunger after righteousness will be filled. Those who are merciful will obtain mercy. Those who are pure in heart will see God.
Those who are peacemakers will be called the sons of God. Those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake will inherit God’s joyous and peaceful Kingdom.
Study much more about each of the eight Beatitudes in the “Related Articles” at the end of this article.
The source of real spiritual power
None of us can really fill the emptiness and the discontent that manifests itself as unhappiness in this world. Ultimately that void is God’s place to fill, and we can’t meet it with something else, at least for any length of time. We can’t generate lasting spiritual joy nor can we find it in some outside circumstance. We must acknowledge that the Creator is the source of all good things and go to Him.
Those who turn to God in humility and repentance begin a journey to the Kingdom of God and eternal life. They learn God’s way of life: “It is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35).
Having the spiritual traits of character described in the Beatitudes will allow us to experience blessedness and happiness now and forever.
For more information on how you can have these traits in your life, be sure to read the articles in this section on Change.
And if you have questions, we have trained ministers who will be pleased to send you a personal answer. Just click on the “Ask a Question” link at the bottom of this page to send us a message. We look forward to hearing from you.