The First Beatitudes: A Christian is Like . . .


Let’s begin today by examining the first two Beatitudes. As we get started, it’s important to remember two things:

  • The best way to think of the word “blessed” as it was originally meant is to translate it as “God approves of and is with those . . .”;
  • The Beatitudes should not be thought of as requirements in order to receive God’s blessings, but traits of God’s people because they are part of the kingdom and already “blessed”.

Matthew 5:3

“God approves of and is with those who are spiritually bankrupt, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” (My translation)

Read this passage again, and as you dwell on it, observe these facts:

  • This passage is not speaking specifically about the economically poor. They could be in this group, but it’s not only them. It’s about the “spiritually poor”;
  • The term for “poor” (or as I translated it “bankrupt”), is not the typical term for the poor, or those short of money. The term Jesus used is of the destitute – those who have nothing and are completely dependent upon others just to eat!

I believe the truths of this Beatitude are fittingly demonstrated in a parable Jesus told which is recorded in Luke 18:9-14. Jesus tells us a story about two men who come to the temple to pray – a Pharisee and a tax collector. Another way to see this is to think of a highly respected man of the town, and a villainous crook: that is how the people of Jesus’ day viewed a Pharisee and a tax collector.

Let’s examine the passage to see how each of them prayed:

“The Pharisee took his stand and was praying like this: ‘God, I thank You that I’m not like other people —greedy, unrighteous, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give a tenth of everything I get.’” (Luke 18:11-12 HCSB)

How would you describe his prayer? Does he confess any sin? Does he worship God? Does he request anything for anyone else? No! All he does during his prayer is compare himself with other people, reminding God how much better he is than everyone else (also notice how many “I”s are in those two verses!).

And then, notice how the tax collector prayed:

“But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even raise his eyes to heaven but kept striking his chest and saying, ‘God, turn Your wrath from me—a sinner!’ (Luke 18:13 HCSB)

In contrast, the tax collector is not worried about anyone else because he can’t escape his own dire plight! He is ashamed of himself, sorrowful for his sinful actions, and begs for God’s mercy and atonement to cover and remove the consequences of his sins, which he fully deserves to bear!

Is it any wonder the parable ends this way. . .

I tell you, this one [the tax collector] went down to his house justified rather than the other; because everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.” (Luke 18:14 HCSB)

Now, as we return to the Beatitude, how are the “spiritually bankrupt” truly blessed? As the parable reveals, anyone not spiritually bankrupt doesn’t really need God. It is only when we are at the end of our rope, and we’ve hit rock bottom, that we recognize our need for a savior! And, contrary to what the world may say, this person is truly blessed because God has made salvation possible and is with them forever! That is what the last phrase “for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” means. Think of it this way: you may not have anything, but if you’re blessed, you really have everything you need in this life and the one to come. Why? This person is truly blessed because they’re a citizen of the kingdom of heaven and displaying the power of God as alive and active in their life right now!

Matthew 5:4

“God approves of and is with the mourning ones, for they shall be comforted.”

It should be noted that some scholars see a progression between the first Beatitude and this one. If you are spiritually bankrupt, then you will truly mourn. The word here “mourn” refers to grieving over a death or of a great loss.

But what is Jesus saying about his followers in this Beatitude?

  • Our sin should cause us to mourn.
  • The evil and suffering we see in this world should cause us to mourn;
  • The injustice we see in the world should cause us to mourn.

In short, once we become a citizen of the kingdom, where God’s rule on this planet has begun in us, now we should see things from God’s perspective. Consequently, we recognize the sheer audacity and rebellion that our sin is, how evil in all its ugly forms has manifested itself in this world that was once deemed “very good”, and lastly at every triumph of injustice, we mourn until the final day when righteousness will ultimately and absolutely triumph!

And I love the promise attached to this Beatitude: those who mourn “they will be comforted”. In the original language, this phrase is known as a divine passive meaning that God himself will comfort his people, both in the present, but especially in the future.

So notice what Jesus is saying about his followers: God’s people mourn, but. . .

  • We are still hopeful trusting in the sovereign God;
  • Our mourning does not turn to despair because we will be comforted;
  • In the face of injustice, we seek to bring justice, empowered by His Spirit.

Now that is someone who is truly blessed!


Author: Randy Allison

I am an adjunct professor and pastor, driven to understand more about faith and how to live that faith in twenty-first century America.

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