As you read and reflect on today’s beatitude, please listen to this track from contemporary Estonian composer Arvo Pärt. We will feature this track throughout Lent.
The eminent missionary theologian, E. Stanley Jones, told of seeing a sign in a used books store that read: “Secondhand Theology for Sale”. Jones said that upon seeing the sign he vowed never to have a secondhand theology. He was determined to know God for himself, and not merely from what others said about God.
The startling and wondrous promise of this beatitude is that we can know God for ourselves! To be pure in heart and united in our devotion to God will mean coming to know Him firsthand.
In this beatitude, as elsewhere in the Bible, Jesus puts emphasis upon the heart (I Samuel 16:7). In the Bible the heart (kardia, Greek) represents our “true self”, or what we are inside without any pretense. Jesus knows well how people can go through the motions of worshipping God on the outside, “with their lips”, while “their hearts are far from me” (Matthew 15:8).
The “pure in heart” are those whose sole focus is God; their devotion is to Him above anyone or anything else. They give themselves as fully as they can to what Jesus called the first and greatest commandment: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind” (Matthew 22:37-38). What we are on the inside determines all of life, for from the heart “flow all the springs of life” (Proverbs 4:23).
According to William Barclay, a pure heart is a heart “unmixed, unadulterated, unalloyed” (The Gospel of Matthew, The New Daily Study Bible). The Greek word translated “pure” (katharos) denotes a substance pure and unmixed, as pure gold is without alloy, or without any substance added. So this beatitude promises intimate, immediate experience of God to any whose devotion to God is unadulterated, or without anything added to it. Jesus warned that we cannot love God and wealth (mammon, Aramaic), or anything else that dilutes or pollutes our devotion to Him (Matthew 6:24).
But how do hearts divided and cold become warm and single-hearted in devotion to God? How do we shed attachments to things not worthy of devotion, or that will never satisfy? The answer is God! Only God can make hearts pure; only God can take away our fixation on things that cannot satisfy. All our efforts at self-purification and cleansing are doomed to fail. David knew this well from experience and prayed: “Create in me a pure heart, O God”(Psalm 51:10).
PONDER AND PRAY
“For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. The good person brings good things out of a good treasure, and the evil person brings evil things out of an evil treasure.”—Matthew 23:34-35
- How would you describe your heart condition today? Is it divided and pulled in different directions?
- Would you today pray with David: “Create in me a pure heart, O God”?
- What do you want To Say To God?