The Beatitudes are part of the Sermon on the Mount that we can read about in the book of Matthew chapter 5. These are essentially short, but powerful descriptions of what it looks like to live life God's way. At first glance, especially for kids, the Beatitudes can seem confusing. They are also quite contrary to the messages we hear from the world around us.
It is important to start by acknowledging what Jesus meant when he used the word “blessed” throughout this teaching. The original Greek word used for “blessed” was makarios. This word can also mean happy, joyful, or blissful. An easy way to explain what Jesus was trying to say to a child could be to point out the difference between being happy and being joyful. Being happy is like eating a piece of candy. It's wonderful while the candy is in our mouth, but once the sweet flavor is gone that's it. Being joyful is like being full after eating your favorite meal. Not only did you enjoy eating the food, but now you feel full and satisfied. When Jesus uses the word "blessed" He's talking about being full and satisfied with the contentment that comes from knowing God.
“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”
Simple Terms: Happy is the person who realizes that they need a Savior because they cannot save themselves, for the kingdom of heaven is their home.
Generally, the word “poor” in our culture, refers to someone who has very little, but “poor” in this verse means to have absolutely nothing. Also, when we use the word poor, we are usually referring to someone who does not have material things, but this is not what Jesus was talking about. Poor in this verse takes on the meaning of having no way or other option of getting close to God. It may be easier to also explain, that the opposite of “poor in spirit’ would be, “I can handle life all on my own, I don’t need God.” What this verse is indicating is that once we realize that we need God and given Him every single part of our lives instead of trying to handle it all on our own, we are taken care of, and will be honored with a home in the kingdom of heaven for surrendering that control to Him.
“Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.”
Simple Terms: If you are sad because of bad things that have happened, you can still be content, because Jesus will comfort you.
The word “mourn” is probably the first word to address here. Sin in the world is incredibly sad. Often our own sins and the sins of others leads to mourning, or being really upset. God is the ultimate comforter and we will be comforted when we mourn sins or bad things that happen, because of God’s love for us.
“Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the Earth.”
Simple Terms: Happy is the person who can control their emotions, for they will be rewarded.
The word “meek” is not one that many kids will know. When Jesus is talking about “the meek”, He is referring to someone who is gentle and does not take out their frustrations and emotions on others; or in other words someone who “controls their actions or behaviors”.
“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.”
Simple Terms: Happy are the people who want to do right and know God more than anything else, for God will give them what they want most.
Truly being hungry and thirsty, causes pain and discomfort, and most children may know what hungry and thirsty feels like. It might be easier to explain to them that hungering and thirsting for righteousness, means that you want it really bad, like so bad that it may hurt our heart to know that we will never be perfect or fully righteous. It is important to explain though that the good news is that when we have that feeling of sadness and pain that God fills it and makes us better through and because of His Son Jesus, who is teaching this very lesson to us.
“Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.”
Simple Terms: Happy are the people who are kind and forgiving to other people, for they will be shown kindness and forgiveness too.
This can be very easily explained with the “Golden Rule” or in other words the Bible verse Matthew 7:12. This specific Beatitude that Jesus is teaching says, that the people that don’t punish other people with what they deserve, will not be punished for what they deserve in return. We are all sinful and we all do bad things, but Jesus is reiterating what is repeated in multiple places in His teachings, and that is to love one another, as you want to be loved.
“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.”
Simple Terms: Happy are the people who not only change their actions and what they do and how they act on the outside, but also change their heart on the inside and how they feel, for they will see God.
It’s easy for everyone to understand doing the right thing on the outside for others to see, but what Jesus is talking about here is changing the heart, the way we think and feel on the inside when we are doing the right things and for the right reason. When we do that and change not only our actions, but our hearts, Jesus is telling us that we will see God.
“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.”
Simple Terms: Happy are the people who work to make peace and good for others, for they will be called children of God.
Peacemakers is a big, but simple word; literally meaning, making peace. A peacemaker isn’t someone who backs down from things and hides in a corner, a peacemaker is someone who works to make things right, to make peace for others. Making peace requires doing and taking action. Kids should know that they need to stand up for peace, and that doing so is good and Jesus says specifically in this Beatitude that a peacemaker will be rewarded with the title of being called a “child of God”.
“Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”
Simple Terms: People who are hurt, suffer or are treated badly because they have done right, can be happy knowing that they will have the kingdom of heaven to look forward to.
Persecution is a big word, but it simply means to be hurt or attacked. As humans, we naturally feel that if we are being hurt, that means that we have done bad, but Jesus is telling us that if we are doing right and good things and people are hurting us we can know that God considers us to be blessed and that His kingdom in heaven, that He has prepared, is ours as a blessing from Him.
“Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”
Simple Terms: You can be happy when people make fun of you, hurt you or say things that are mean and wrong against you because of Jesus. Be excited and happy because just like the other heroes of the Bible, your reward is going to be great when you get to heaven.
This Beatitude is similar to the previous one, in that it references being persecuted for Jesus, but it references specifics such as insults and falsely saying all kinds of evil against you. It is also not just for any righteous and good thing, but if all of this happens to you simply because people know that you are a follower of Jesus. The reward or detail of the blessing extends into the 12th verse, but gives even deeper explanation, by stating that we can "rejoice" and "be glad", basically we can be excited, because the reward God has for us is great.