Stewarding the Beatitudes – #4 Blessed Are The Pure in Heart
February 1, 2024
We are in a six-part series looking at the Beatitudes through the lens of our steward theology. Our premise is that the blessed or happy life Jesus is announcing comes through the fully surrendered life of the steward. Each Beatitude depicts an aspect of this stewarded life. To help us, we are considering the correlates to the Beatitudes – what we might call the Bad-Attitudes. This week we will look at verse 8
Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.
Miserable are the indecent and unchaste, for God will leave them to themselves.
How often have you wanted to see God? How many times have you said something like, “if only I could catch a glimpse of God, if just for a moment I could witnesses His real presence here in the world, then I would never doubt.” As followers of Jesus, we yearn to sense his presence with us. We long to experience Him so closely that we can ‘see’ Him right beside us. From time-to-time people have had amazing experiences of the presence of God in their life but probably none of us would ever dare say that we have actually seen God. It may seem curious that Jesus offers this outcome for those who are pure in heart. Does it really mean that if we were to attain to a certain level of purity suddenly God would appear in our midst?
To answer that question let’s consider what it means to be pure in heart. The Greek word for pure is katharos (καθαροὶ). It’s only other use in the New Testament is in John 13 and 15. In John 15, Jesus tells his disciples, “I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. You are already clean (καθαροὶ) because of the word I have spoken to you” (John 15:1-2).
The followers of Jesus have been made clean or pure through the careful pruning of the master gardener. If you’ve ever watched a good pruner, you will wince as he snips off seemingly healthy branches and leaves a tree once thick and full of vibrant limbs looking like a sad and spindly version of its former self. When I followed my dad as he pruned his orchard, I was chagrined at how often the sticks I was picking up off the ground outnumbered the ones left on the tree. However, that autumn his apples were large, perfectly formed, and replete with sweet, pure juice.
Jesus is equating this kind of loving pruning as a process that makes one pure. Purity is the freedom from anything that debases, contaminates, or pollutes. In the pruning metaphor, to purify is to cut away everything that restricts, interferes with, or draws away the ability to produce the finest fruit.
We can use a metal metaphor as well. Smelting is a process used to extract a metal from its ore and purify it. It involves heating the ore to a high temperature in the presence of a reducing agent, such as carbon, which reacts with the oxygen in the ore to remove impurities. The metal is then separated from the impurities, resulting in a purified form of the metal. This process is commonly used for metals such as iron, copper, and lead.
Here’s one more. I love to flyfish and on warm afternoons it is tempting to kneel down and scoop up a handful of that cold, clear river water and enjoy a refreshing gulp. If you know anything about river water, even in the most pristine of estuaries, the likely result of such an indulgence will be an evening of trips to the local outhouse as giardia wreaks havoc on your digestive trac. There are two solutions, two ways to purify the water and make it suitable to drink. You can filter it or disinfect it. One method removes bacteria, the other kills it.
Pruning, boiling, filtering, and disinfecting. All ways to make something that is contaminated pure. Here we might offer another definition of purity. Purity also means being singular, unified, un-mixed, or consistent. The opposite is to be divided, co-mingled and conflicting.
How do these relate to our heart? And how do they lead to ‘seeing God’? Perhaps we should ask this another way. How do the impurities in our heart keep us from seeing God?
Psalm 24:3-4 gives us a clue.
“Who may ascend the mountain of the Lord?
Who may stand in his holy place?
The one who has clean hands and a pure heart,
who does not trust in an idol
or swear by a false god.“
In Psalm 51:1-2 David cries out to God his anguish,
“Have mercy on me, O God,
according to your unfailing love;
according to your great compassion
blot out my transgressions.
Wash away all my iniquity
and cleanse me from my sin.”
He then makes this request,
“Create in me a pure heart, O God,
and renew a steadfast spirit within me.”
Paul advises Timothy,
“As I urged you when I went into Macedonia, stay there in Ephesus so that you may command certain people not to teach false doctrines any longer or to devote themselves to myths and endless genealogies. Such things promote controversial speculations rather than advancing God’s work—which is by faith. The goal of this command is love, which comes from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith” (1 Timothy 1:3-5).
Do we see the themes? Purity of heart is the result of forgiveness, cleansing from sin, rejection of idol worship, refusing to engage in divisiveness, seeking true doctrine, and being filled with a steadfast spirit. It is both the purging of contaminants through the cleansing work of absolution and the fixing of our hearts on a good conscience and a sincere faith.
My Bad-Attitude suggests that the indecent and unchaste will be left to themselves. I am thinking here of the rather terrifying admonition of Paul in Romans who said of people who did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God that,
“…God gave them over to a depraved mind, so that they do what ought not to be done” (Romans 1:27-28).
The pure in heart will see God because they have ceased needing to see themselves. The impure will never see God because they don’t want to. They are so focused on themselves they have no desire for God.
We acknowledge that there is an eschatological component to Jesus’ teaching. Certainly, those who keep their hearts pure will see God face to face in the second coming. However, as hopeful and certain as that promise is for us, it must not detract us from also expecting God to reveal himself in ever more real ways to those who yield themselves to His pruning, refining, cleansing work.
As stewards we surrender our lives to God. We empty ourselves and pray that God will do His pruning, His purifying, His cleansing work. As He does the impurities that keep us from seeing Him are slowly removed. And even though now we ‘see through a glass dimly’, we begin to see, nonetheless.