“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.” (Matthew 5:8)
The Greek word translated in this verse for “pure” is katharós. Elsewhere in scripture, katharós is most commonly translated as the word “clean.” I suppose the word “pure” is used in this verse because it relates to the moral quality of a person’s heart, thus “pure” sounds more appropriate. But katharós is just the ordinary word for “clean.”
“Blessed are the clean in heart…”
Think of your heart as having a window. Windows do two things. First, a window allows light to come in so that we’re not living in darkness. Second, a window also enables you to look out and see what’s going on outside.
But if the window becomes dirty with accumulated grime so that it’s almost as if it’s completely painted over, you will live in darkness and you can’t see out.
The capacity to see God has something to do with the purity of your heart. And the grime that accumulates on the window of the heart that keeps us from seeing is not just any particular sin. It’s a particular kind of sin.
“No one has ever seen God, but the one and only Son, who is himself God and is in closest relationship with the Father, has made him known.” (John 1:18)
Jesus perfectly and fully reveals God to us. Yet throughout Jesus’ lifetime, some people were able to see that; some people were not.
Think about it. Jesus is teaching and engaging in ministry. And some people say, “This is the work of God.”
Other people say, “This is the work of the devil. He’s a deceiver. He’s a fraud. And God is not with him.”
So some people could see God in Jesus, and some people could not.
What created the divide? It wasn’t sin, per se. Because they were all sinners. What kept some people from perceiving the truth was a particular kind of sin. The sins of spiritual pride, judgmentalism, and hypocrisy.
The Pharisees in particular had the most difficult time seeing God in Jesus. The Pharisees were a religious/political party (because it was all one thing) whose mission it was to somehow reclaim Israel’s sovereign status by making Israel morally pure.
But they couldn’t see God in Jesus. And it’s not just that they were being difficult. They legitimately couldn’t see it.
Here’s a tax collector. Here’s a sinner. Here’s a fisherman. Here’s a simple peasant. Here’s a Roman soldier. And they all see God at work in Jesus.
And yet, here you have very religious, very pious, very moral people that belong to this conservative party called the Pharisees, and they look at Jesus and can’t see God. They see a trouble-maker. They see the devil, perhaps. But they can’t see God.
Now outwardly, they had their act together. They were the most moral people in society. But Jesus would constantly critique them and demonstrate that the windows of their hearts were contaminated.
“Blindness” was a consistent theme in Jesus’ assessment of the Pharisees. He gives a scathing indictment of them in Matthew 23, referring to them as “blind guides,” “blind fools,” “blind men,” and “blind Pharisees.” Elsewhere he refers to them as “the blind leading the blind” (Mt. 15:14).
Now watch this:
“This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all.” (1 John 1:5)
God is light. But if you live in a darkened room with windows as if they were painted over grime, it doesn’t matter how bright the light is outside, you’re still in darkness. And even if the light outside illuminates all that is without you, you still can’t see it because of the grime upon your own windows. You are locked within your own perception. You can only imagine what’s out there. You can’t actually see even though God is light. Next verse:
“If we claim to have fellowship with him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live out the truth.” (1 John 1:6)
Walking in darkness is not just walking in darkness of any kind. It’s a particular kind of darkness. It’s the sin of self-deception. Dishonesty. Of not admitting your own sinfulness. We see it clearly in the next verse:
“But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.” (1 John 1:7)
So walking in the light is not walking without sin. It’s walking in honesty. Walking in the light is not being without sin. It’s being honest about sin. I’ll show you how it works:
“If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify [katharós] us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word is not in us.” (1 John 1:8-10)
Be careful about the sin of spiritual pride, because that is what keeps you in darkness. This is the particular sin that prevents you from seeing your own sins. See, when you paint over your soul with spiritual pride, you shut out the light, and you’re not aware of the sin that’s in your own life.
On the other hand, you may have other sin in your life, but if you don’t commit that sin, there’s enough light to say, “You know, I don’t have any business judging other people, pointing out the specks in their eyes, because I have to deal with these issues in my own life.” And now you’re beginning to see (see John 9:39).
Here’s a tell-tale sign: If the window of your soul is clean you can perceive God at work in others. But if your window is contaminated with the sin of spiritual pride, you are blind. And all you see when you look at people is their faults.
One clear symptom of a soul contaminated with spiritual pride is the constant outflow of fault-finding, finger-pointing, and condemnation. Constant condemnation of other people, other believers, other ministers, other churches. It’s not vision, it’s blindness.
It doesn’t require keen, spiritual insight to look at others and see their faults. Keen, spiritual insight is when you can see God at work.
Blessed are those who have a clean window, in which the smears of judgmentalism and the spiritual pride and hypocrisy have been scrubbed off, and who can say, “Whoa, I can see God at work.”
True story. I don’t know this man personally, but we have a mutual friend. A certain man had just been elected pastor of a small, 60-year old pentecostal church. On Monday morning of their first week, he and his wife walked into the sanctuary and noticed the large windows on both sides of the auditorium. They were closed with curtains. So they decided to open the curtains to allow some light into the room. And then they left.
A few hours later they got a phone call from the elders. There was an “emergency” down at the church. They apparently needed to get down there right away.
When they arrived there were three elders and one lady standing there. And the lady said, “Who opened the curtains!?”
“Well…I opened the curtains. I thought it’d be good to have some light—“
“Weeee dooon’t open the curtains! These curtains have not been opened in 50 years.” And she went about with great ceremony, closed all the curtains, and pinned the curtains to the wall.
The First Church of the Closed Curtains.
Open the curtains. Let some light in. Admit that you’re spiritually blind and you’ll be given new sight.
And you’ll know you’re beginning to see not when you see the faults of other people, but when you’re able to say, “You know what, I see God at work in their lives, pouring out his love and his grace.”
Blessed are those who have a clean window into their hearts, because they can see God at work.
NOTE: This post is part of a blog series on the Beatitudes. Here are the links to the previous posts:
Beatitude #1: Blessed are the Poor in Spirit
Beatitude #2: Blessed are Those who Mourn
Beatitude #3: Blessed are the Meek
Beatitude #5: Blessed are the Merciful