God likes to use many different ways to get His point across in the Bible. There are several literary effects that various Bible authors used to emphasize something or make an impact on the reader. Woven throughout Romans 12-14 are traces of the Beatitudes from Matthew 5:1-12. Taking that passage from the book of Matthew, Paul reemphasized several concepts and arguments in greater detail. This effect resulted in a greater opportunity for the reader to understand many of the Beatitudes through Paul's arguments in Romans.
The first Beatitude, "blessed are the poor in spirit," is often misinterpreted.
It is not referring to the poor-spirited, such as a Christian with his head drooped and the pressures of the world upon him. On the contrary, "poor in spirit" means "poor in ego." This means they do not always have "self" on the mind. Having a big ego means that someone has such an awareness of themselves that their world begins and ends with themselves. "We know people who are rich in ego, and we do not like them. They are proud and haughty and conceited. They have an overwhelming sense of their own importance" (Redhead, 1968, p. 12). But if we are empty of ourselves (poor in spirit) then there is room for God to fill us with his power (kingdom of heaven). When delivering the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus' audience consisted of poor people who desired material goods. Jesus tried to show them that poverty was not a disgrace. Being poor in spirit could be a blessed thing (Crock, 1953).
In the Romans passage, several verses are applicable to the issue of being "poor in spirit." "Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the measure of faith God has given you" (Romans 12:3); "Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor one another above yourselves" (Romans 12:10); "Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people o flow position. Do not be conceited" (Romans 12:16); "Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God" (Romans 13:1) (1978). All of these verses correlate to the idea of being "poor in spirit" because they require a lowering of the self or the ego and putting the other thing first.
Another Beatitude is "blessed are the merciful."
Mercy often refers to showing kindness to the unfortunate and pity to the needy; however, real mercy means to identify with another through empathy, otherwise known as imaginative understanding. Jesus' ultimate act of mercy occurred on the cross while praying for those who put him there (Redhead, 1968). This Beatitude is also revealed in Romans. "Share with God's people who are in need. Practice hospitality" (Romans 12:13); "Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody" (Romans 12:17); "Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God's wrath for it is written: ‘It is mine to avenge; I will repay,' says the Lord" (Romans 12:19); "If your brother is distressed because of what you eat, you are no longer acting in love. Do not by your eating destroy your brother for whom Christ died" (Romans 14:15) (1978). Each of these verses hi-lights the concept of utilizing empathy in order to show favor and help toward someone.
Another Beatitude in Romans is "blessed are the peacemakers."
It must be established that there is a difference between peacekeepers (those who won't disturb a situation to allow for peace to appear) and peacemakers (those who exert energy to assure that something happens). Peacemaking, therefore, is not just about stopping strife; it is about promoting the highest goal of others. Peace is not always the answer; however, we must all be willing to disturb the peace sometimes (Redhead, 1968). No peace of mind equals no peace in the home, no peace on the land, and no world peace (Fitch, 1961). The following verses in Romans expound on the Beatitude in Matthew: "If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone" (Romans 12:18); "Therefore let us stop passing judgment on one another. Instead, make up your mind not to put any tumbling block or obstacle in your brother's way" (Romans 14:13); "Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification" (Romans 14:19) (1978).
The next Beatitude is, "blessed are the pure in heart."
"To be pure in heart is to see God, and to see God is to know the meaning of true blessedness" (Redhead, 1968, p. 84). In the New Testament, the word pure translated into "clean." God wants us to have an unblemished heart before Him. To be pure in heart also means that one approaches God with no ifs, ands, buts, etc (Redhead, 1968). These phrases are found scattered through Romans. "Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is--his good, pleasing and perfect will" (Romans 12:2); "Let us behave decently, as in the daytime, not in orgies and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and debauchery, not in dissension and jealousy" (Romans 13:13) (1978). These verses encourage us to avoid the evil things of this world and to attain a higher calling with God through a pure heart.
Next, God said, "Blessed are the meek."
Contrary to popular belief, meekness is not weakness. Meekness simply represents a will that has been tamed and under control. "The meek man is not the man who never knows anger; rather, he is the man who is always angry at the right time and never angry at the wrong time" (Redhead, 1968, p. 37). Basically, being meek is placing one's will in line with the will of God. Romans 12:9 applies to these qualities, "Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil, cling to what is good" (1978). We must pick and choose how we will react to things that we encounter each and every day.
Blessed are those who mourn.
When Matthew wrote, "Blessed are those who mourn," he was referring to a Christian solution to trials: accept trouble as part of life and make something out of it. There is a certain joy that results from seeing how bad things turn into good things. Trouble is not a punishment, but an opportunity. "...trouble is an opportunity, a chance to build a life after the pattern of God's Son who was made perfect through suffering" (Redhead, 1968, p. 28). This is because it is in the darkest times that the brightest things stand out. As II Corinthians 1:3-4 states, "Blessed be...God of all comfort who comforts us in all affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction." The applicable verse in Romans is found in 12:15b, "Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn" (1978). Just as Christ shares our burdens, we are to share the burdens of each other.
Lastly, "Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness."
In other words, God is only found by those who eagerly desire him (Barclay, 1963). God mentions the craving for Him as a hunger and thirst because it is the strongest...it must be a consuming passion. The world seeks pleasure, fame, money, power and a soul...not righteousness! But to hunger and thirst after righteousness means that its fulfillment does not depend upon worldly circumstances...nothing can cheat you out of your desire (Redhead, 1968). "...the hunger for the highest makes for happiness because it is the one desire which never gets fed up" (Redhead, 1968, p. 58). As it is stated in Romans 14:8, "If we live, we live to the Lord; and if we die, we die to the Lord. So, whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord" (1978). No matter what we are doing or what happens around us, we have complete confidence on the circumstances because we know that our ultimate goal in any situation is to get closer to the Lord.
Barclay, W. (1963). The beatitudes and the Lord's Prayer for everyman. New York: Harper & Row.
Crock, C. H. (1953). The eight beatitudes. New York: Joseph F. Wagner.
Fitch, W. (1961). The beatitudes of Jesus. Grand Rapids: William B. Erdmans.
Redhead, J. A. (1968). Finding meaning in the beatitudes. Nashville: Abingdon Press.
(1978). The Holy Bible: New international version. Grand Rapids: Zondervan.