Jesus’ sermon on the mount is probably the most well-known sermon in all the Bible. It consists of three chapters in the gospel of Matthew (5-7) and it contains some of the most radical teaching the world has ever known. Here Jesus instructs His disciples to love and pray for their enemies (5:43-44). He says that not only is the physical act of adultery wrong, but so is looking upon another with lust (5:27-30). He says that hate and animosity towards a brother is just as wrong as murder (5:21-24). In this sermon Jesus sets a very high moral standard.
In fact, one of the things that make this sermon so challenging to the hearer is that right at the beginning Jesus targets the source of all man’s actions – his heart! As He begins this famous sermon the Lord announces the blessings that will come upon those who develop eight specific godly qualities in their hearts.
- “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:3). In this context the “poor in spirit” are those who recognize the need for God in their lives. It is those who humbly seek God’s love, mercy, grace, and forgiveness. It is those who understand that they don’t deserve the wonderful gift of salvation that God offers to all mankind (Titus 2:11). God rewards the poor in spirit with eternal life in heaven.
- “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted” (Matthew 5:4). There are many things in life that cause us to mourn (the death of a loved one, the regret we feel after we do something wrong towards another, etc.), but here Jesus has something very specific in mind. What the Lord speaks of here connects back to the previous verse. Once awakened by our need for God’s forgiveness, grace, and mercy, we should then feel an intense feeling of grief over our sins. We should mourn our sins because they hurt God and cut off our relationship with Him (Genesis 6:5; Isaiah 59:1-2). King David is an example of someone who understood the value of mourning the negative impact of sin (Psalm 51:1-5).
- “Blessed are the gentle, for they shall inherit the earth” (Matthew 5:5). Being gentle means that we are always going to be calm and considerate towards others. It means that we are always going to be careful when handling various situations with people, even when we are angry or provoked. Jesus was certainly someone who was humble and gentle in heart (Matthew 11:29).
- “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be filled” (Matthew 5:6). People who hunger and thirst for righteousness do more than grieve over their sins. They also long to be constantly fed with God’s word (Psalm 119:97). They worship God in spirit and truth on the first day of the week (John 4:24; Acts 20:7). They repent and turn away from sin (Luke 13:3). They obey Jesus’ command to be immersed for the forgiveness of sins (Acts 2:38; Mark 16:16). When you hunger and thirst for righteousness, Jesus will make sure you are filled (John 6:35).
- “Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy” (Matthew 5:7). This quality means that we will not only have compassion towards the sufferings of others, but we will also be driven to relieve others of that suffering (see the example of the good Samaritan in Luke 10:30-37). We can’t reasonably expect to receive God’s mercy if we are unwilling to exercise mercy on others (Matthew 18:21-35).
- “Blessed are the pure in heart for they shall see God” (Matthew 5:8). It is true that we are to have morally pure hearts (Proverbs 4:23). But here in the context it appears that Jesus is talking about living a life where our hearts are consistent with our actions. He is talking about developing a real and genuine faith (2 Timothy 1:5). Only these people will get to one day see God. Those who live double lives (like the scribes and Pharisees at this time) will not!
- “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the sons of God” (Matthew 5:9). Much of the disciple’s life is about striving for peace. We want to be at peace with God (Ephesians 2:14). We want to be at peace with fellow disciples (1 Thessalonians 5:13; Romans 14:19). We want to be at peace with all men (Romans 12:18). Striving for peace is one of the marks of a true child of God.
- “Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:10). This is probably the most shocking of all the qualities listed. It seems to deviate from the pattern Jesus has been following. It doesn’t describe the character we are to possess, but how others in the world will respond to our character if we follow Jesus. When we stand with Jesus some will mock, laugh, and ridicule us. But that is okay. God is watching and He will one day reward us for our commitment with something great in heaven (Matthew 5:11-12).
Do you have these eight qualities in your heart? If not, challenge yourself to develop and maintain them. According to Jesus, doing so will lead to some of the greatest blessings you could ever have in your life!
– Shawn Jeffries