The Beatitudes: a guide to Christian practice

I learned the Beatitudes, as given in the Sermon on the Mount in the Bible (see Matthew 5:3–12 ), by heart when I was a child in Sunday School, but it wasn’t until years later that I came to a profound realization about them: that the Beatitudes, when applied to our lives, transform our thinking so that we demonstrate “the mind of Christ” (I Corinthians 2:16 ). Each beatitude involves growth in grace and indicates, not a future reward, but an already present, God-supplied blessing.

Though some of these statements that Christ Jesus made to the multitudes could, at first glance, seem counterintuitive, I’ve found the opposite. The first beatitude says, “Blessed” (or as some translations put it, “How happy”) are they that are “poor in spirit.” This hardly seems a propitious condition! Yet the beatitude continues, “for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” It seems to me that Jesus’ saying points us to the recognition that when we are poor in spirit—feeling the dissatisfaction and emptiness of material existence—we are ready to consider and understand the present reality of spiritual existence and the joy it brings. In this way, man’s extremity truly becomes God’s opportunity. 

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