Have you ever read through the Beatitudes in the Sermon on the Mount and breathed a deep sigh of relief as you comforted yourself with a particular blessing associated with a hardship you were going through? “Blessed are those who are persecuted,” we might read, and apply that blessing like a salve to soothe our hurt feelings from the unkind words that were spoken against us.
Maybe you have looked at the list of characteristics in Matthew 5:3-11 as a kind of checklist of model behaviors to work towards, or even as a list of blessings to try to earn. Possibly you’ve been striving towards these two goals and have felt a little frustrated that they seem so hard to achieve. It could be that you’ve seen them as a list of Jesus’ favorite kind of people and have gotten a little worried that you might not make the cut.
There isn’t anything wrong with finding solace in the Beatitudes, trying to live up to their descriptions of goodness, or desiring God to bless our deeds, but these verses reveal so much more than any of those temporal things.
This powerful passage of scripture was spoken by Jesus with the intention of giving us an insightful look into His Kingdom way. They were powerful, counter-cultural words designed to change our hearts. Let’s not miss the deeper truths that Jesus intended.
Let’s take a look at 5 common misconceptions about the Beatitudes and then examine the deeper truth of what Jesus really meant.
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Misconception #1: The Beatitudes as a Comfort
Misconception: “The Beatitudes are a place I can turn to in scripture when I need comfort in hard times.”
What Jesus Really Meant: The Beatitudes are a comfort to us in some of our most difficult times. These verses remind us that even in sadness, grief, and hardship, we have hope because of Jesus. However, they offer far more than just comfort for our aching hearts.
The Beatitudes call us to look at our current circumstances through the lens of an eternal perspective. We are reminded that what we are facing in the here-and-now is temporary, but the blessings of Jesus are eternal and far outweigh what we face here on earth.
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Misconception #2: The Beatitudes as a Checklist
Misconception: “The Beatitudes are a checklist for model behavior.”
What Jesus Really Meant: The Beatitudes do point out some character traits that we would all do well to live by. Who among us hasn’t wanted to be able to say that we have a humble heart, hunger and thirst for righteousness, or are actively pursuing a pure heart, a merciful outlook, and a meek and peaceable spirit? However, these verses are more than just a checklist for good behavior.
The Beatitudes point us towards the heart of Christ because we know that Jesus completely and perfectly embodies each of these characteristics. He is humble. He is our comfort and peace. He is meek, merciful, pure in heart, and righteous. He is our suffering Savior who was persecuted for righteousness. As we look at who He is, we can’t help but see how we compare to His holiness, and our need for Him is made known.
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Misconception #3: The Beatitudes as a List of Blessed People
Misconception: “The Beatitudes are a simple list of blessings associated with certain people.”
What Jesus Really Meant: The Beatitudes do list out blessings that are tied to a specific type of people. Jesus says that the poor in spirit, those who mourn, the meek, those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, the merciful, the pure in heart, the peacemakers, the persecuted, and the insulted are blessed. However, these verses are more than just a list of special people groups that Jesus wanted to pronounce a blessing on.
The Beatitudes are an example of the upside-down Kingdom of God where the last is the first and the blessed are the ones who are facing trials and struggles. We are shown how counter-cultural Jesus’ way of thinking is as He teaches us a whole new way of looking at things that turns our normal ideals on their ears. Jesus makes claims that the poor in spirit have an inheritance, the mourners receive comfort, the hungry and thirsty are filled, and the persecuted and insulted are blessed. Jesus was known for having views radically different from the world and the Beatitudes are a noteworthy example of that.
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Misconception #4: The Beatitudes as an Earned Blessing
Misconception: "The Beatitudes are a list of blessings that I can earn if I do the right thing."
What Jesus Really Meant: The Beatitudes are a list of blessings and each blessing is connected to a stipulation. However, these verses show us so much more than a simple list of blessings to be earned.
The Beatitudes are a call to examine our hearts. Jesus constantly showed his concern for the heart of a person over their outward appearance. The emphasis of the Beatitudes does not fall on behavior with the potential to earn us a blessing, but on the change that happens in our hearts when we choose to truly follow Jesus. We are called to look at the posture of our hearts and align them with Jesus instead of aligning them with our own personal desires.
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Misconception #5: The Beatitudes as a Comprehensive Guide
Misconception: "The Beatitudes are a comprehensive guide for all that Jesus wants His followers to do and be."
What Jesus Really Meant: The Beatitudes are a beautiful and powerful selection from the Sermon on the Mount used to teach and to illustrate some very important truth. However, as with all biblical text, we need to be careful about lifting portions of scripture and giving them a blanket application.
The Beatitudes are a small part of a much bigger whole. They act as an introduction to Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount and lead us into the other teachings and principles that Jesus shared. They are not intended to be an exhaustive list of blessings, but a building block of Jesus’ larger message.
Although the Beatitudes are commonly misunderstood, this familiar passage of scripture is one that offers us insight into the way of Jesus and the Kingdom of God. It pushes us to examine our own heart and shows us our need for a Savior. When we take the time to really dig into the Beatitudes found in Matthew 5:3-11, we experience a powerful perspective shift that takes our eyes off what this selection of the Bible says about us and puts them squarely on Jesus.
Bobbie Schaeperkoetter is a speaker, writer, blogger, and encourager at bobbieschae.com. She loves Jesus with her whole heart and is just doing her best to honor Him in the craziness of life. She would love to be a friend and encourage you as you follow Jesus in the craziness of yours. She would love for you to stop by and say hello on social media at www.facebook.com/bobbie.schaeperkoetter, on twitter at www.twitter.com/bobbie_schae, and on Instagram at www.instagram.com/bobbieschae.
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Originally published Wednesday, 20 March 2019.