“Your Word Is Truth”
‘Happy Those Conscious of Their Spiritual Needs’
WITHOUT a doubt, among the best-known sayings of Jesus are those found in his Sermon on the Mount. Regarding them editor David Lawrence aptly observed: “We have never invented a better formula for human behavior than the Sermon on the Mount.” (U.S. News & World Report, January 4, 1971) Well has it been said that no other portion of the Bible is so highly praised and yet so little practiced.
The Sermon on the Mount begins with the nine so-called “beatitudes.” So-called? Yes, for the Greek word here rendered “Blessed” in many translations at the beginning of these nine is makaʹrios, which in a number of modern translations is rendered “happy.” (See Today’s English Version, Rotherham’s Emphasised Bible and the New World Translation.) There is another Greek word for “blessed,” namely eulogetosʹ. So these are nine “happinesses” or felicities that Jesus pronounced at the beginning of his Sermon. They are full of meaning and must be given due thought if their full import is to be appreciated.—Matt. 5:3-12.
It is important to note that Jesus addressed these happinesses primarily to his disciples, to those who had ‘taken up their torture stake’ and were following him. (Matt. 16:24) “After he sat down his disciples came to him; and he opened his mouth and began teaching them.” However, it appears that crowds of others joined to listen in, as it were, for we read that they were impressed by what they heard.—Matt. 5:1, 2; 7:28, 29.
The first of these happinesses literally reads: “Happy the poor ones (as) to the spirit.” The Greek word for “poor ones” here used is very meaningful. In the Greek there are two words for “poor.” One is penikhrosʹ. It refers to those who are not rich but have to toil for a living. The other word is ptokhosʹ. It refers, to one who is wretchedly poor, destitute, a beggar. This is the word used in Jesus’ first happiness. Such a one is keenly aware of his poverty. Thus a footnote of the New World Translation (1950, 1963 editions) reads, “those who are beggars for the spirit.” Today’s English Version reads: “Happy are those who know they are spiritually poor.” Most fittingly, therefore, the New World Translation renders Jesus’ words: “Happy are those conscious of their spiritual need.”
What did Jesus mean by saying that these were happy? The Greek word here, makaʹrios, does not mean simply being lighthearted, gay, as when one is having fun. Rather it has the thought of great well-being, for both God and Jesus Christ are spoken of as being “happy.”—1 Tim. 1:11; 6:15.
Those spoken of by Jesus as happy might be said to be happy in three ways or respects. They are enjoying a measure of happiness now. They are also happy in that they have a happy outlook, a happy hope. And eventually they will realize the supreme and complete happiness.
How does one show that he is a ‘beggar for the spirit,’ that he is ‘conscious of his spiritual need,’ and why can he be said to be happy by reason thereof? There are a number of ways. One is by showing a constant dependence upon Jehovah God, even as Jesus admonished: “Keep on asking, and it will be given you; keep on seeking, and you will find; keep on knocking,’ and it will be opened to you.” Among the things that such ones will ask for is God’s holy spirit. Jesus said that his heavenly Father was more willing to give his holy spirit to those asking Him than earthly parents were to give good gifts to their children. Certainly those receiving the holy spirit can be pronounced happy even now.—Matt. 7:7; Luke 11:13.
A person who is a ‘beggar for the spirit’ is not materialistic, for the materialist is conscious only of his material needs and desires. Rather, the kind of person to whom Jesus referred recognizes that ‘man does not live by bread alone but by every word proceeding from God’s mouth.’ (Matt. 4:4) So he buys out time from other things, such as recreation, to study God’s Word. The knowledge, faith and hope he gains from his study of God’s Word make him truly happy. He feels like Jeremiah, who said: “Your words were found, and I proceeded to eat them; and your word becomes to me the exultation and the rejoicing of my heart.” (Jer. 15:16) He also shows that he is conscious of his spiritual need by associating with fellow Christians at congregation meetings so that he might be encouraged and in turn encourage others, as well as share in inciting others to love and fine works, all of which makes for happiness.—Heb. 10:23-25.
Then again, the person conscious of his spiritual need is keenly aware of his sins and shortcomings. He has a tender conscience. He appreciates that Jesus died for ‘the sin of the world,’ and so he exercises faith in that ransom provision and prays to God to forgive him on the basis of Christ’s sacrifice. (John 1:29; Matt. 20:28; 1 John 1:9) His is therefore the happiness of him of whom the psalmist David wrote: “Happy is the one whose revolt is pardoned, whose sin is covered.”—Ps. 32:1.
Furthermore, he who is conscious of his spiritual need feels also a strong urge or need to share with others the good things of the spirit that he has learned. He therefore looks for opportunities to do this and buys out time from his secular activities to this end. Bringing comforting good news to others is certain to increase his happiness, for “there is more happiness in giving than there is in receiving.”—Acts 20:35; Eph. 5:15, 16.
It is with this understanding or Jesus’ words at Matthew 5:3 that we must view Luke’s version of Jesus’ words at Luke 6:20: “Happy are you poor, because yours is the kingdom of God.” Obviously, the ‘poorness’ is an awareness of spiritual need. Apparently Luke condensed the wording of this happiness itself even as he condensed their number, listing only four of the nine.—Luke 6:20-23.
Because Jesus was primarily addressing his footstep followers he could say of them: “The kingdom of the heavens belongs to them.” It is to these that Jesus further said: “I am going [to my Father] to prepare a place for you . . . that where I am you also may be.” Having such an outlook or hope is indeed another reason for these to be happy. And when they realize this hope they will be supremely and completely happy. Other scriptures show that their number is limited to 144,000.—John 14:2, 3; Rev. 14:1, 3.
Is the happiness Jesus spoke of limited to this small number? No, indeed, for its principle applies to countless others. Today there is a “great crowd” of “other sheep” who also are conscious of their spiritual need and who enjoy the happiness that this brings. (Rev. 7:9; John 10:16) These also have a hope, a prospect, that gives them happiness now, that of inhabiting the earthly realm of God’s kingdom. When they do, their happiness too will be complete.—Matt. 25:34.