Theological Insights from a Modern Perspective

The Beatitudes

What more appropriate teaching right before Thanksgiving (here in the US)? The purpose of Thanksgiving was not to rattle off everything that we are happy that we have (as seems to be the custom in Hollywood TV specials), but to thank God for what He has gifted to us, that which comes to us in The Lord’s Prayer:

Give us this day our daily bread;

And forgive us our sins (debt)

As we forgive those whom we offended.

We tend to confuse words in the Bible, two biggies are “debt” (as in the Lord’s prayer) and Blessed (as in the Beatitudes). In the first Jesus is telling us to ask for forgiveness, not of our debts (things we owe) but of our sins. The word confused here is ὀφειλήματα, which does mean debt, but a personal, internal debt; a debt incurred by wronging another person for which a payment is due. In the West we don’t understand that type of debt, hence the confusion. In the East when you offended someone you owe much more than just an apology, you owe them a recompense for the offense. This is the type of debt for which Christ had to die on the cross, a simple “my bad” just doesn’t cover it.

The other word we mess up (a lot) is Blessed (μακάριοι). Somehow this became corrupted into something that is sacred or holy. μακάριοι means happy, but not the kind of happy that makes you giggle or laugh. This is a deep, profound type of happiness, a happiness that cannot be surpassed; think elated, ecstatic…then go beyond that. This is a happiness that cannot be extinguished, a joy so exuberant that mere words fail it.

Now, with that in mind, let’s reread that wonderful teaching of Jesus’ from the mount:

Sermon on the Mount

Sermon on the Mount

Happy are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Happy are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.

Happy are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.

Happy are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be satisfied.

Happy are the merciful, for they will obtain mercy.

Happy are the pure in heart, for they will see God.

Happy are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God.

Happy are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Happy are you when men revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account.

Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so men persecuted the prophets who were before you.

Notice that last sentence? This is the key to the fact that Blessed has been misunderstood.

Have a Blessed Thanksgiving, and give thanks for the thing we have truly to be thankful for – our daily bread, and forgiveness of our sins.

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