The first three beatitudes in many ways express those qualities that are the prerequisites for salvation. To be poor in spirit, to mourn, and to be meek (Matt. 5:1–5) are all related to the idea of recognizing ourselves for who we really are in the sight of God apart from Christ — desperate sinners who cannot save ourselves. As Jesus continues outlining the marks of His disciple in today’s passage, we will see Him focus on qualities that are produced in those who recognize their spiritual poverty and have turned to Him.
Our Creator’s blessing (approval) is on “those who hunger and thirst for righteousness” (v. 6). Typically, we hunger and thirst for food and drink, without which life is impossible. In using this analogy, Jesus wants us to see that righteousness is our most basic need. Christ is not here speaking primarily of His perfect righteousness, which is imputed to us by faith alone and is the sole basis upon which God accepts us (2 Cor. 5:21). Instead, He is emphasizing the personal righteousness that all believers must cultivate (James 2:14–26). Simply put, we cannot have Jesus as Savior if we will not have Him as Lord. We must always endeavor to please our Father and do the right thing according to His Word. If this is our aim, Jesus tells us, we will find ourselves conforming more and more to God’s law. We will always be reaching for this righteousness in this life, because there is always room for improvement until we are glorified.
Our Redeemer also says that the merciful are blessed (Matt. 5:7). In fact, if we want to receive mercy we must be merciful to others. This is not to say that the Lord waits for sinners to show mercy before He is merciful to them, for we know unregenerate men are incapable of showing true mercy to others. He is just listing mercy as an inevitable fruit of authentic conversion. If we truly love the Savior, we will extend the hand of compassion to those who are in need and forgive those who have offended us (Col. 3:12–13). John Calvin comments: “Christ says that those are happy, who are not only prepared to endure their own afflictions, but to take a share in the afflictions of others — who assist the wretched — who willingly take part with those who are in distress.”
Our passion for righteousness and mercy is one way we can measure our fervor for the Lord. There are innumerable ways we can pursue both of these actions. Thus, we are unable to complain to God that there have been no opportunities today or any other day to follow Christ and show mercy. Find one way you can show mercy today, perhaps by extending forgiveness to someone who has wronged you or by giving time or resources to the poor.
For further study:
The Bible in a year: