Coincidentally enough author Kenneth Bailey in - you guessed it! - Jesus Through Middle Eastern Eyes had two chapters devoted to The Beatitudes. I thought there were a few things from the book worth sharing on this topic. Please keep these in mind as you read Matthew 5:1-12 -- "The Beatitudes."
The Greek word used for "blessed" in this sense is not the same "bless" as "Lord, please bless the sick" or "please bless the children." Rather it's "not part of a wish and to not invoke a blessing, [but this word - makarios] - recognizes an existing state of happiness or good fortune." It "affirms a quality of spirituality that is already present."
It's not "if you are meek, you will inherit the earth." or "If I do X, I will get Y."
Rather you should read these collectively as "'Look at the authentic spirituality and joy of these people who have or will be given X.'"
Do you see the difference?
Now moving on to the first three on the list.
3Blessed are the poor in spirit,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
poor in spirit -- "the humble and pious who seek God" and "know they need God's grace."
kingdom of heaven-- "has to do with the rule of God in the lives of individuals and societies" ... "Many people at the time of Jesus used the phrase the kingdom of God to describe a Jewish state where God alone was King. In contrast, Jesus declared that the kingdom was already present in the poor in spirit (not among the Zealots)."
4Blessed are those who mourn,
for they will be comforted.
mourn over what? Kenneth Bailey suggests suffering (which has a great way of making us figure out our true priorities), injustices in the world (beware and don't surrender to "compassion fatigue"), evil in our own lives ("failure to love God and our neighbors should produce grief.")
5Blessed are the meek,
for they will inherit the earth.
For Jesus, "the land" meant the land of Israel, and only the meek had rights of inheritance, not the violent or the members of a particular clan. The text expanded in the later church to include the whole earth.
The meek are those who humbly seek God. They are neither too bold nor too timid.
Being meek is in harmony with being angry over injustices inflicted on others.
Quotes from pgs. 67-75
Do you agree with Kenneth Bailey's conclusions on these verses? Do you have other viewpoints we should consider? Thoughts? Questions?