Does “Blessed” In The Beatitudes Just Mean “Happy”?

The KJV’s translation of the Greek word “makarios” (Strong’s #3107) as “blessed” in Matt 5:1-12 is an accurate translation. Many say the word should have been translated “happy,” but I doubt the meaning of “happy” would give us the full picture.

A check of a Greek concordance shows the word is question is translated into our English word “blessed” 44 times and “happy” only 6 times. And following are some appropriate definitions for our English word “bless” or “blessed” from The Random House College Dictionary – “to request of God the bestowal of divine favor on: Bless this house … to bestow good of any kind upon: a nation blessed with peace … divinely or supremely favored, fortunate: to be blessed with a healthy body.” Sure a person should be happy when they are blessed, but I don’t think that is the precise point the text is making.

The form of each beatitude is a statement that a person will be “blessed” if they implement a specified godly characteristic in their lives, and then the beatitude proceeds to tell us what that blessing is. For example in the first beatitude, if we want to receive God’s promised blessing, we must be “poor in spirit” – and the blessing we will receive if we are poor in spirit is that we will be a member of the “kingdom of heaven.”

These beatitudes are all true regardless if we are happy or not (though we have every reason to be happy). For example a person is not likely to be happy while he is mourning (verse 4), but he will receive the blessing of being “comforted” – possibly at a later date. And we all know a sinner can be happy even if he doesn’t exhibit the Christian traits encouraged by the beatitudes … but he won’t be “blessed,” will he?

Consider how we see the same use in many other passages where the word is found. For example, Rev 14:13 says “Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord.” This is not talking about being happy per se after we die, but the fact as stated in the verse that men will receive “rest from their labours” (heaven). Rev 20:6 says “Blessed and holy is he that hath part in the first resurrection” – the blessing is explicitly stated as “on such the second death hath no power, but they shall be priests of God … and shall reign with him a thousand years.” Rev 22:14 reads “Blessed are they that do his commandments, that they may have right to the tree of life, and may enter in through the gates into the city.” Just like with the beatitudes pattern, a blessing is promised upon a condition, and the blessing we are to receive is specifically stated – heaven.

The term “blessed” is applied to God in I Tim 1:11 and I Tim 6:15 and I doubt anybody thinks that is referring to the fact that God is happy. Furthermore, in Jesus’ illustration in Matt 24:46-47, the faithful servant is “blessed” by being made “ruler over all his (the lord’s) goods.” It has the same pattern as the beatitudes, that is, do such and such and you will be “blessed” (“bestow a favor upon” – Rick Duggin).

In Luke 14:14 we see that a man will be “blessed” in the sense he will be “recompensed at the resurrection of the just” – if he helps the needy in this life. Notice from James 1:12 that a man will be “blessed” in the sense that he shall “receive the crown of life” – if he endures temptation. And James 1:25 teaches a man will be “blessed” if he is a doer of God’s word. Should these three men be happy? Yes they should – because they are going to receive a blessing by God for being faithful to him.

And we see this exact point being made in the last beatitude. If a man is persecuted for righteousness sake he is “blessed” in the sense that he will receive the blessing of entering the “kingdom of heaven,” and such person should be happy (“rejoice, and be exceeding glad”) because he is to eventually receive this blessing (“great … reward in heaven”). See, happiness is not the blessing, but is to come as a result of the blessing.

Conclusion: The Greek word translated “blessed” in the beatitudes means “blessed,” not just “happy.” Instead, being happy should be a bi-product of being blessed by God.

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