The Beatitudes, part 7: Pure in Heart

Read Matthew 5:8

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE Teach me your way, O LORD, that I may walk in your truth; give me an undivided heart to revere your name. (Psalms 86:11 NRSV)

pure-heart-5-1Jesus, before the entire multitude, continues on in his beatitudes, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.” This beatitude would not have shocked the average Jewish person. After all, Jesus was referencing Psalm 24:3-4, “Who shall ascend the hill of the LORD? And who shall stand in his holy place? Those who have clean hands and pure hearts, who do not lift up their souls to what is false, and do not swear deceitfully.” (Psalms 24:3-4 NLT)

But before we get into who the “pure in heart” are, let us first discuss what Jesus IS NOT referring to. While on the beach at the ocean with my family yesterday, my daughter asked me a rather direct question, “Dad, what’s debauchery.” That may sound like a strange question coming from one’s daughter; however, in context, she was reading George Orwell’s “1984”, which she was assigned as summer reading for school. It is in that book that she came across the word, which isn’t exactly a word people regularly use anymore.

After I explained what debauchery was, we left the beach and went out to eat. We were seated by our hostess in the bar section of the restaurant that we were eating at on the boardwalk. We’ve eaten there plenty of times uneventfully and we always go during “family-friendly” times to avoid any sort of wild party scene. Well, that plan was foiled by a group of rather self-absorbed adults who were clearly getting a head start on their raucus drinking and were, ironically, giving my daughters an object lesson of what “debauchery” is all about. Now, my daughters are old enough to know what’s going on and to know it’s “NOT COOL”, but there were other infants, toddlers, and children there with their families, who were equally shocked by the behavior of these debaucherous “adults.”

I am sure I need not go into detail with you as to what they were doing, but they were anything but the “cool” they thought they were being…if they were thinking at all. Let me say this, REAL ADULTS are mindful of children and innocent ones around them; these people were clearly not acting like real adults. With all of this said, when Jesus referred to the “pure in heart” he was NOT referring to purity as in the opposite of “debauchery.” He was not referring to the those who avoid impure thoughts (aka sexual fantasies), the sexually chaste and/or those who abstain from indulging the pleasures of the senses.

No doubt, it is true, that such people WOULD NOT be considered to be pure in heart, but not necessarily for the reasons our puritanically informed minds might think. When Jesus says, “Blessed are the pure in heart,” he is thinking of it in terms of monotheistic Judiam. Like in Psalm 86 (see above), Jesus is saying, “Blessed are those who have an undivided heart and who devote themselves solely and entirely to God. Blessed are those who are devoted to God with all of their hearts, for they will see God.”

It is such single minded, pure-hearted, devotion that is required for the worship of the one, true God, and this is what Jesus had in mind. Conversely, those who do not devote themselves solely to God will not see God because they will be distracted by all of the things that pull them away. When one’s heart is divided between God and other things (whatever those things are), it is impossible for one to truly be devoted to God because those other things will continue to get in the way. Whether those things are our time, our possessions, our sensual desires, our greed, our hatred, our bitterness, our nationalism, our racism, our sexism, our heterosexism, our ageism, our ablism, or whatever “isms” we may harbor, those things will always take precedence over God and, as a result, we will be blinded to God.

Thus, Jesus is telling us all that the antithesis of being “pure in heart” is a divided heart. Christ is calling us to have a single-minded, whole-hearted, devotion to God. Let nothing, and Christ means nothing, stand in the way of your relationship with God. If you become “pure in heart”, you will be blessed with the sight and the knowledge of God. May your prayer, as well as mine, be that we draw ever closer to God and to Christ our redeemer.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY “Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.” (James 4:8 NRSV)

PRAYER Lord, draw me close to you and never let me go. Help me find the way and bring me back to you. Amen.

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