Daily Devotion 19 February 2021
Matthew 5: 2-6 ‘The Beatitudes – Blessed or Happy?’
(New Revised Standard Version)
2 Then he [Jesus] began to speak, and taught them, saying:
3 ‘Blessed are the poor in spirit,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
4 ‘Blessed are those who mourn,
for they will be comforted.
5 ‘Blessed are the meek,
for they will inherit the earth.
6 ‘Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
for they will be filled.
(Good News Bible)
2 and he [Jesus] began to teach them:
3 “Happy are those who know they are spiritually poor;
the Kingdom of heaven belongs to them!
4 “Happy are those who mourn;
God will comfort them!
5 “Happy are those who are humble;
they will receive what God has promised!
6 “Happy are those whose greatest desire is to do what God requires;
God will satisfy them fully!
It’s always interesting to see how different translators have approached their task. Compare the two versions of the first few verses of the Beatitudes above, and you’ll notice at once that the traditional (and more accurate) ‘blessed’ in the NSRV has been replaced by ‘happy’ in the GNB. The Greek word in the original translation ‘makarios’– can sometimes mean ‘happy’, but is better rendered by the word ‘blessed’. This is very different from the (often temporary) feeling that could be described as ‘cheerfulness’. The word ‘happy’ actually originates from the old Anglo-Saxon ‘HAP’, which means ‘chance’, but we are thinking about experiencing something much deeper – a blessing from God, and that is, JOY.
During lockdown I watched the short series ‘Being Beethoven’. Although I knew that his ‘Ode to Joy’ from the 9th Symphony was produced when Beethoven was profoundly deaf, I never realised the extent to which he was able to produce sublime music from what was a pretty wretched personal life. It seems to me to be a perfect illustration of the basic difference between ‘happy’ and ‘joyful’.
When John Wesley said that a Christian is one who is ‘happy in God’, he was not suggesting that as Christians, we should wear a permanent grin on our faces! This, especially in the trying times through which we are living, is impossible. Yet, even when we are suffering, it is possible for us to know and experience joy. How? Quite simply, I believe that it’s a gift from God. If we love him with all our hearts and minds, he becomes the delight of our souls and the joy of our hearts, which will become ‘strangely warmed’. And then, I am convinced, we will be truly blessed.
Loving God, your Son Jesus Christ showed us that your kingdom
is one of joy and peace and everlasting love.
Give us grace, patience and faith in your goodness,
so that we may love you humbly and serve you faithfully, even in difficult days.
Give us joy in hearts, through Christ our Lord. Amen.
Reflection and Prayer © 2021 Barrie Tabraham.
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