So I hate the word “blessed” in general. It strikes me as a meaningless word, because it’s full of implications that it never has to commit to. Someone who is rich is blessed, someone who has a good day is blessed, the dinner got blessed, it kind of means holy, it sometimes means talented. In general, it’s just the hyper religious cousin of “lucky.” Blessed goes to the knitting circle at church while lucky goes to the dance club.
The Greek word behind it is makarios.
Makarios, as the Greeks used it around the time of Jesus, didn’t mean it in a strictly religious sense, the way blessed is so clearly pious. Sometimes it gets translated “happy,” which isn’t bad. The problem is that when you read the beatitudes with “happy,” it seems like Jesus is being sarcastic.
So I looked specifically at how a number of ancient Greeks used makarios. It tends to fall into about three categories. It’s used to refer to the pantheon of gods, when they are makarios because they don’t have to worry about mortality and mortgage payments. It’s used for the dead, because the dead can finally rest from the worries of this world. And it’s used for the elite rich, who don’t even have to leave the house to do their own grocery shopping, because they can pay someone to do it.
So makarios has the sense of being free from the cares of the world. Read the beatitudes this way:
Now when he saw the crowds, he went up on a mountainside and sat down. His disciples came to him, and he began to teach them saying:
“Carefree are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Carefree are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.
Carefree are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.
Carefree are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.
Carefree are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.
Carefree are the pure in heart, for they will see God.
Carefree are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God.
Carefree are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Carefree 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.”
Read that way, you get close to perfect sense. Of course the meek are carefree when it comes to being meek, they’re going to get everything in the end anyway as if they hadn’t been meek. You’re carefree if you mourn because in the end you know it will go away. You can be carefree in showing mercy, instead of anxiously seeking revenge, because you know in the end you’ll be shown mercy too.
2 thoughts on “Carefree are the poor in spirit”
Good applied theology. How’s that working out for you?
Carefree – nice. when my wife and I say a blessing before a meal we often ask God to make the food fat free and calorie free – in other words to make this food carefree.