It was quite common in my growing up to hear someone say, “well, bless your heart” and then move on to either correct or excuse something that had been done. I’ve tried to imagine being there the day Jesus was delivering the Sermon on Mount and to imagine what I would have thought when he blessed those with a pure heart. As with all the beatitudes he designated what the blessing would be for the pure in heart by saying “They shall see God.” Do you suppose that many of those listening to him felt he was describing them when he talked about the pure in heart? I would guess that most were thinking, that can’t be me that he is talking about. We might have looked around to see some precious person we have known through the years that is especially kind and caring toward others and thought maybe they would fit the bill, but not us. What do you picture when you think of having a pure heart anyway?
The word “pure” has the basic meaning of being unmixed. It is in its true sense when we purchase a product that says, “Pure Honey” or “Pure Olive Oil”. The maker is telling us that there isn’t any by-products added to it to make it better or change it in anyway. It may well have been the case that some of those listening to Jesus on hearing this blessing were reminded of the song found in Psalms 24 that they may have been taught from childhood. In verses 3-4 it said, “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 to a false god.” When our heart or soul is mixed in its loyalty trying to worship some idol as god along with the God of the Universe our hearts are defiled. Jesus was giving the concept of a pure heart when he was tempted by the devil in the wilderness and declared, “you shall worship the Lord your God and him only shall you serve.” A pure heart is the total opposite of the notion, “Give God a place in your life or in your heart.” God isn’t looking for a place in our life. He is longing for our total commitment to him. He longs for us to give our hearts fully to him.
In Titus 1:15-16 Paul said to his young friend and fellow preacher, “To the pure, all things are pure, but to those who are corrupted and do not believe, nothing is pure. In fact, both their minds and consciences are corrupted. They claim to know God, but by their actions they deny him. They are detestable, disobedient and unfit for doing anything good.” Paul is definitely focused on the heart that is pure and not just the outside actions because he notes that when our hearts are pure, it changes how we see everything else in life. One with a pure heart, sees the world through the eyes of purity. When the heart is defiled we see everything as defiled and evil. It is somewhat like looking at the world through glasses. If your glasses are clean it changes how you see everything else. But if your glasses are scratched and dirty everything you look at is distorted. You have been around people, I’m sure, who can see something immoral or filthy in the most innocent person or action imaginable. When we have such an impure heart, we may claim to know God but the truth is we are denying him all the time. Think of how the impure person thinks they see God but get a distorted view of Him, while the pure in heart are able to see God as he really is.
James adds a point to this whole discussion first by telling us the pure and undefiled religion is to visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction and to keep oneself unspotted from the world (James 1:27). Then in chapter 3:17-18 he described wisdom in this way: “But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. Peacemakers who sow in peace reap a harvest of righteousness.” Wise people are pure in heart. Such purity of heart will change the actions, the emotions and the attitudes of the person.
But what did he mean by saying the pure in hear will see God? Obviously it could point to heaven and those who are pure in heart seeing God in glory when this life is over. But I don’t think that is the point Jesus was making. I think his point is that when our hearts are pure, totally focused on God and His will for us, we see God in all the things around us. We should see God in the beautiful flowers of springtime, in the streams, the hills, the valleys, the mountaintops, in the birds and animals that show up and in the children in our lives. We should see God in the people we are around all the time. We ought to see a glimpse of God in the hurting, homeless, addict that has totally lost their sense of direction in life. Certainly Satan is at work there as well. But God shows up in the most helpless person we meet, wishing for us to demonstrate our faith by showing care. God is all around us, but we can only see him when our heart is pure with the wisdom from above.