The Greek Geek

Μακάριος: Blessed

By Kevin Stone

(Matthew 5:3–11; cf. Luke 6:20–22). The gospel of Luke is especially full of this word blessed, and it's found seven times in Revelation, once in each of the letters to the churches. Usually, when we use the English word blessed, we have in mind a state of happiness or glee: we say such things as, "I've been blessed with a day off!" or "A gift for me? I feel so blessed!"

The Greek word translated "blessed" in the Sermon on the Mount is makarios, and it's meaning is a little more nuanced than what we get from happy. The idea behind makarios is that something is made "large" or "lengthy." When God "blesses" us, He "extends" His benefits to us. He "enlarges" His mercy to us. He "lengthens" His charity in our direction. Forget the long arm of the law — this is the long arm of God's grace!

Of course, the person to whom God's benevolence is extended is the happier for it, which is why the word makarios is sometimes translated "happy" or "fortunate" or "enviable." A startling fact about the Beatitudes is that Jesus issues no commands in them. He does not say, "Be merciful" or "Get out there and make peace!" Rather, He lists the qualities that identify the "blessed." If God's grace has been extended to you, then these traits will be yours.

The Amplified Bible translates Matthew 5:3 with an endeavor to extract from makarios its full flavor: "Blessed (happy, to be envied, and spiritually prosperous — with life-joy and satisfaction in God's favor and salvation, regardless of their outward conditions) are the poor in spirit..."

This state of blessedness, in which God's grace is made "large" for us, is often linked to faith (see Romans 4:5–8 and Revelation 14:12–13, where faith and blessedness are mentioned in the subsequent sentences). The connection between having faith and being blessed is natural. By faith we are made children of God, and the children of God are the target of God's extended grace. As Boaz extended the corner of his garment to include Ruth in his prosperity (Ruth 3:9), so God our Savior extends His robe of righteousness over us.

America's Founding Fathers wrote of the universal human right to "the pursuit of happiness." But to pursue something is no guarantee of catching it. Many have engaged in the pursuit of a self-defined "happiness" without much to show for it in the end. Better to follow Jesus' path to blessedness, even though the direction He leads is counterintuitive: being poor in spirit, being meek, bearing persecution patiently — these are the qualities connected to spiritual prosperity, true and lasting happiness, and the enlargement of our "life-joy and satisfaction in God's favor and salvation."

TagsBiblical-Truth Jesus-Christ Theological-Beliefs

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Published 2-10-15