“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God” (Matthew 5:8).
God cares about more than one’s actions; He cares about one’s thoughts. John Quincy Adams remarked, “Human legislators can undertake only to prescribe the actions of man. They acknowledge their inability to govern and direct the sentiments of the heart; the very law styles it a rule of civil conduct… The Legislator (God – B.H.) gave them rules not only of action but for the government of the heart” (David Barton, Original Intent, p. 327). Thomas Jefferson similarly said, “[Jesus] pushed his scrutinies into the heart of man, erected his tribunal in the region of his thoughts, and purified the waters at the fountain head” (ibid). He knows our thoughts (Psalm 139:2 cf. John 2:24-25; Matthew 9:4; Luke 9:47). He knows our motives (Matthew 6:1, 5, 16). He searches our hearts (1 Samuel 16:7; 1 Chronicles 28:9; Romans 8:27; Revelation 2:23).
The word “blessed” (makarios) is defined to mean “blessed, happy” (Thayer); “blessed, fortunate, happy usually in a sense of divine favor” (BAG). True lasting happiness is found in a right relationship with God.
Blessed are the pure in heart. Let us consider two words. (1) The word “pure” (katharos) is defined to mean: “clean, pure” (BAG); “clean, pure (free from the admixture or adhesion of anything that soils, adulterates, corrupts)… ethically; free from corrupt desire, from sin and guilt… sincere… blameless, innocent” (Thayer). The word has a wide range of usages. The idea of “free from corrupt desire” seems to best fit this beatitude. James instructs “purify your hearts, you double-minded” (James 4:8). Notice that to be spiritually double minded is to have an impure heart. (2) The word “heart” (kardia) is defined to mean: “the chief organ of physical life (for ‘the life of the flesh is in the blood’ Leviticus 17:11) …By an easy transition the word came to stand for man’s entire mental and moral activity, both the rational and the emotional elements. In other words, the heart is used figuratively for the hidden springs of the personal life” (Vine’s); “The soul or mind, as it is the fountain and seat of the thoughts, passions, desires, appetites, affections, purposes, endeavors” (Thayer). It has been said that the spiritual heart is: “The thinker in the head, not the thumper in the chest.” The spiritual heart, like the physical heart, has four parts: (a) The intellect (e.g. Genesis 6:5; Psalm 19:14; 1 Kings 3:9); (b) The conscience (e.g. Acts 2:37); (c) The will (e.g. Daniel 1:8; Acts 11:23; 2 Corinthians 9:7); (d) The emotions (e.g. 2 Corinthians 2:4; Romans 10:1; Colossians 3:16).
Outward actions flow from the inward heart. The book of Proverbs warns, “Keep your heart with all diligence, for out of it springs the issues of life” (Proverbs 4:23). Jesus teaches that it is “What comes out of a man, that defiles a man. For from within, out of the heart of men, proceeds evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lewdness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness. All of these things come from within and defile a man” (Mark 7:20-23).
It is possible to have the outward appearance of righteousness, and an impure heart. Jesus said of certain scribes and Pharisees that they were “hypocrites” (Matthew 15:7). They drew near to God with their mouths and honored Him with their lips, but their hearts were for from him” (Matthew 15:8). Again, He said, “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you cleanse the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of extortion and self-indulgence… Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs which indeed appear beautiful outwardly, but inside are full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness. Even so you also appear righteous to men, but inside you are full of hypocrisy and lewdness” (Matthew 23:25-28). It is possible to fool some men, but not God. He looks upon the heart (1 Samuel 16:7).
It is possible to do good deeds out of wrong motives. Some do charitable deeds, pray, and fast in order to be seen and recognized by men (Matthew 6:1, 5, 16). Such men may have their reward from men (Matthew 6:5, 16), but they have no reward from God (Matthew 6:1).
It is also possible to sin in the heart, without doing the outward act. Jesus teaches, “Whoever looks at a woman to lust after her has already committed adultery with her in his heart” (Matthew 5:28 cf. 1 John 3:15). Let us point out that this is not describing a man who is momentarily tempted by some woman he sees. The words “to lust” denote purpose. He purposely looks for lust. Moreover, “looks” (present tense) denotes continuous action. He keeps on looking upon a woman to lust. This is not mere temptation but meditation of the heart.
It may be possible to outwardly, by ritual, comply with God’s teachings. However, God wants more. He wants us to obey “from the heart” (Romans 6:17). He wants us to worship Him “in spirit and in truth” (John 4:24). Worship in spirit is sincere worship (John 4:24 cf. Joshua 24:14). Worship in truth is worship in accord with His word (John 4:24; cf. John 17:17). We are to love the LORD our God with all our being (Mark 12:30): heart (emotions, feelings), soul (being, existence), mind (intellect, brain power), strength (energy, effort, muscle power). Our love for the brethren is to be sincere (Romans 12:9; 1 Peter 1:22). Our faith is to be genuine (1 Timothy 1:5; 2 Timothy 1:5). Those who will be blessed sincerely and genuinely serve Him. They do so out of a pure heart.
They shall see God. That is: They shall see Him in glory. John says, “Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be called the children of God! …Beloved, now we are children of God: and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is. And everyone who has this hope in Him purifies himself, just as He is pure” (1 John 3:1-3 cf. Revelation 22:4).
Consider the words of the following song: “Purer in heart, O God, Help me to be; May I devote my life wholly to Thee; Watch Thou my wayward feet, Guide me with counsel sweet; Purer in heart, Help me to be/ Purer in heart, O God, Help me to be; Teach me to do Thy will most lovingly; Be Thou my Friend and Guide, Let me with Thee abide; Purer in heart, Help me to be/ Purer in heart, O God, Help me to be; That Thy holy face one day may see; Keep me from secret sin, Reign Thou my soul within; Purer in heart, Help me to be. Amen.” (Purer in Heart, O God by Mrs. A. L. Davison).