The Sermon on the Mount is basically concerned with two human needs–attitudes and conduct.
“Attitude” is from the same root at “aptitude.” Both come from the Latin root aptus, which means “fit.” Both have to do with what a person is “apt” or “fitted” to do. Needless to say, a good attitude is a basic and necessary ingredient, no matter the course of action or endeavor.
“Conduct” is from conducere, to direct or lead together. The word describes the course of action a person takes, how he conducts himself toward a route of pursuit. Our word “conduit” comes from this same root and has to do with channeling things together, or how something is conducted.
The Beatitudes are all mainly matters of attitude, although each of them has somewhat to do with conduct as well. They describe those who meet with God’s approval.
“Blessed,” as used in the Beatitudes, is not the same thing as “happiness,” though it is translated that way in some renditions of the New Testament. “Happiness” as the term indicates, depends on what “happens,” and describes good fortune or good luck in most instances. “Blessedness,” on the other hand, has an exalted feeling of tranquility no matter the external circumstances. So, blessedness is at least an
exalted form of happiness. In the Beatitudes “blessed” is used to imply God’s approval, to indicate how he views one who is properly dis-positioned, or has the right spiritual inclination.
While there is no etymological connection between attitude and beatitude, the concept is the same in both words–both constitute a right disposition of heart and mind.
Never is there a better example of what constitutes a right attitude than in the beatitudes.
Blessed are the poor in Spirit. To be poor in spirit is to have a humble attitude. There is no room in the kingdom of Christ for pomposity or narcissism. To be poor in spirit is to understand the importance of bringing one’s disposition under the control of One greater then himself. No inordinately proud person is fit for the kingdom.
Blessed are those that mourn. Proper mournfulness is indicative of a sensitive, feeling spirit. One has only to look around at what has happened in the world of sin to be sensitized by the scene. A person who is a kingdom subject has a disposition of empathy, an attitude of true concern for what is righteous and holy. “Jesus wept.” Need more be said?
Blessed are the meek. Meekness is strength under control. There is more to it than being humble. The word describes one who has power to use and uses it for the good and growth of the kingdom. It describes a powerful, but gentle spirit, one which emanates from a place of potency, but is moderated by and applied in love. Meekness is gentle, strong, but not controlling.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst after righteousness. Here is the kingdom subject who has an appetite for high, ennobling information, information that has to do with going in the right direction all the while. It is a reasonable attitude, one that seeks the right course of action, even when it calls for difficulty. Righteousness is the goal of the righteous person.
Blessed are the merciful. Mercifulness has to do with compassion–with-feeling, feeling-with, being so considerate of a person’s needs that one actually shares the difficulty, feels the intensity of the troubled soul. Mercifulness describes one who is filled with the desire to help, driven by the need to be of service, anxious to be a part of the person’s need, especially to those in hard circumstances.
Blessed are the pure in heart. A pure heart brings something special to every situation. It is a heart free from prejudicial thinking, a heart determine to let the good ring whenever possible. The pure heart may also be one that is devoid of infractions, a heart clear in understanding, a heart abusive or detrimental thoughts. A pure heart is the seat for pure conduct.
Blessed are the peacemakers. “Peacemakers” defines itself. One who seeks for peace is one who seeks to avoid controversy. Peace at all cost is not his mission, but peace based on truth and righteousness is. Here is an agreeable attitude, one who seeks to take kingdom language and bring about unity and harmony based on its principles. He is a maker of peace.
Blessed are the persecuted. Right living has always brought about difficulty. But one who is persecuted for the sake of his faith knows what is important and he will not compromise, no matter the vindictive spirit that is levied against him. Truth has always been fiercely attacked by the forces of evil, but the righteous have always been the victors in the end. Great men have always suffered for their stand for truth, but so have those without reputation who have a faith that lives.
The Beatitudes–powerful attitudinal reaches. Powerful attributes and dispositions that come with subscription to the love and regard manifested by Him who loved them to perfection–Jesus Christ, the Son of the living God.