As we progress through the Beatitudes, let’s trace our journey so far:
Poor in spirit / destitute (v. 3) -> mourning over our sin / broken (v. 4) -> meekness / empty (v. 5) -> hunger & thirst for righteousness -> fulfillment / satisfaction (v.6) -> merciful to others (v. 7)
What comes next? Jesus lays it out:
“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.”
(Matthew 5:8 NIV)
So what does it mean to be “pure in heart”?
Being “pure” is not an outward condition, but an inward one. The Greek word for “pure” is an ethical term, not a physical or ceremonial term. It indicates a freedom from corrupt desire; being blameless or innocent in our thoughts as well as our words and actions.
We don’t become pure by outward actions such as saying or doing the right things or not saying or doing the wrong things. We don’t become pure by some ceremonial act, such as baptism. Only the Holy Spirit can make us pure and innocent and blameless in God’s eyes.
So where (or what) does our “heart” refer to? To the ancient mind, the heart symbolized the innermost part of our being, our “soul”, if you will. Thayer’s Greek Lexicon defines “heart” as used in this passage as follows:
“the centre and seat of spiritual life, the soul or mind, as it is the fountain and seat of the thoughts, passions, desire, appetites, affections, purposes, endeavors…”
A little later in Matthew chapter 5, after Jesus shares the Beatitudes with His disciples, He illustrates the point about being pure in heart, not just being outwardly innocent. He gives two specific examples using the Ten Commandments as His starting point.
Jesus’ first example is the commandment to not murder:
“You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘You shall not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’ But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister will be subject to judgment.Again, anyone who says to a brother or sister, ‘Raca,’ is answerable to the court. And anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell.” (Matthew 5:21-22 NIV)
Jesus’ second example is the commandment to not commit adultery:
“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” (Matthew 5:27-28 NIV)
Jesus sets the bar impossibly high for human standards – not just outward actions, but our thought life as well. Only the Holy Spirit can work in this realm and change us from the inside out.
So what is the blessing of being pure in heart? Seeing God.
Is seeing God only a future event when we get to heaven? No. Jesus uses the term “see” in a context that His disciples would understand. The term Jesus used was like being invited in to an audience with the king or ruler of the country. This was not just an invitation to meet the king in a formal ceremony, and then be sent away, but to be invited in to where the king lived, in his innermost living quarters.
We are invited in to God’s presence, to see Him where He lives, but only with pure hearts. Not just in the future, but in the here and now, to see God working in us, through us, and all around us.
What is the condition of our heart today? Will we humble ourselves and let Him purify our heart?