Jesus said it. How seriously do we take it? What do we get from this ultra-bright star among the constellation of Beatitudes? Does its challenge to perfect purity make us stop, think, and examine ourselves?
“Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God” (Matt. 5:8).
“Heart” in the Bible usually meaning the whole personality, it involves our mind and will, as well as our emotions.
The word “pure” occurs 28 times in the New Testament, and it has a variety of usages, all of which have something to add to the meaning of this sixth beatitude.
1) Originally “pure” meant clean, and could, for instance, be used of soiled clothes which have been washed clean.
2) It is regularly used for corn which has been winnowed or sifted to remove the chaff. In the same way it is used of an army which has been purged of all discontented, cowardly, unwilling and inefficient soldiers and retains only first-class fighters.
3) Very commonly appears in company with an adjective which means unmixed, unalloyed, unadulterated. It is used of milk or wine which is undiluted with water, or of metal which has in it no alloy.
So basically, pure means unmixed, unadulterated, unalloyed. Do we wonder that this beatitude is so demanding? It could be translated:
Blessed is the man whose motives are always entirely unmixed,
for that man shall see God.
It is only the pure in heart who can do even the finest actions from absolutely unmixed motives. If we give generously and liberally to some good cause, it may well be that there lingers in the depths of our hearts some basking in the sunshine of our own self-approval, some pleasure in the praise and credit we will receive.
If we do some fine thing, which demands some sacrifice from us, it may be that we are not altogether free from the feeling that men will see something heroic in us, and that we may regard ourselves as a martyr. No one is entirely free from the danger of self-satisfaction for work well done. John Bunyan was told by someone that he had preached well that day. He replied sadly, “Yes, the devil already told me that as I was coming down the pulpit steps.”
This beatitude demands from us the most exacting self-examination. Is our work done from motives of service or from motives of pay? Is our service given from selfless motives or from motives of self-display?
Is the work we do done for Christ or for our own prestige?
Is our worship an attempt to meet God, or a fulfilling of a habitual and conventional respectability?
Is even our prayer and our Bible reading motivated by a sincere desire to company with God, or because it gives us a pleasant feeling of superiority to feel that we do these things?
Is our religion a thing in which we are conscious of nothing so much as our need for God, or a thing in which we have comfortable thoughts of our own piety?
To examine our motives may be a daunting thing, for there are few things in this world that we always do with completely unmixed motives.
“Blessed are the pure in heart.” The phrase means, “Blessed are those who are right with God,” “those who with singleness of mind try to do God’s will.” A proper inward attitude is just as vital as proper outward behavior. How many of us swing like a compass to the will of God? How many are clear in our intentions, with inner desires free from duplicity?
That which is pure is clean, so clean that it is fit to be brought into the presence of God and used in His service. Is this true of our hearts, our intents, our minds, our lives? The world is full of things which are soiled and sordid and shabby. The Christian’s mind must be set on things that are pure; his thoughts so clean that they can stand even the scrutiny of God.
So, says Jesus, it is only the pure in heart who shall see God. It is a warning to remember. As by God’s law we keep our hearts clean, or as by human lust we soil them, we are either fitting or unfitting ourselves someday to see God.
May I conclude with this paraphrase: Oh the bliss of the one whose
motives are absolutely pure, for that one will someday see God!