In line with the last post about possible bias by the Gospel writers in relation to the Beatitudes let’s look at some modern day interpretations. To those of us who think one of the primary reasons Jesus came to us was to show us how to live the Beatitudes are front and center among Jesus’s words. In light of the last post I am going to include Matthew’s version here as well as Luke’s . You can see the differences yourself:
Matthew (beginning 5:3)
- Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
- Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.
- Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.
- Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.
- Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.
- Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.
- Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God.
- Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me.
Luke (beginning at 6:21)
- Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God.
- Blessed are you who hunger now, for you will be satisfied.
- Blessed are you who weep now, for you will laugh.
Blessed are you when men hate you, when they exclude you and insult you and reject your name as evil, because of the Son of Man.
(additional connected verses in Luke)
- “Rejoice in that day and leap for joy, because great is your reward in heaven. For that is how their fathers treated the prophets.
- But woe to you who are rich, for you have already received your comfort.
- Woe to you who are well fed now, for you will go hungry.
- Woe to you who laugh now, for you will mourn and weep.
- Woe to you when all men speak well of you, for that is how their fathers treated the false prophets.
I recently came across an interpretation of these verses with a very different twist. The author of this view says that Jesus was really talking about all of us in our current state and didn’t intend to single out any particular minority or group for favor or attention. This seems to align with the supposed difference between Matthew and Luke as reported in the last post. One of the examples given in this recent portrayal was that when we try to evangelize someone and they return our attempts with less than civil language then we are peacemakers when we don’t attack them back?? The author of this interpretation went on to give similar examples to most of the other verses above.
I am afraid that this type of misalignment seems common among some Christian denominations. They start out with their founder’s basic views and then try to “interpret” the Bible, red letters and all, to match the founder’s philosophy. Where they don’t want to have to do what Jesus says they downplay the words into non-significance. Sometimes this twisting can become so extreme that surely even they do it don’t really believe what they are saying.
Rather than simply laying back and letting the Lord’s grace flow over me I will continue to treat the Beatitudes, along with the other red letters in the Bible as a call to action. Jesus meant what he said and he meant for us to listen and act upon his words.