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When Jesus gathered his newly-called disciples and spoke his first words to them as a group (Mt 5:3-10), he did not speak casually or without forethought. The Beatitudes were defining words, the first verbal offerings of a ministry rich in teaching. With them, Jesus painted a portrait of the kind of disciples he intended to build: [1]

  1. The Poor in Spirit. People who have learned how spiritually destitute they truly are and how dependent on God to provide for their spiritual needs. The beggars and widows of the spiritual realm who understand the real source of spiritual riches. Tax collectors who beat their breasts rather than Pharisees who offer their religious resumes. The deeply humble who confess they have much to be humble about! People who are not afraid to say, “I was wrong” and mean it.
  2. Those who Mourn. Having seen their spiritual destitution, “mourners” are those who are willing to lament it and take it very seriously. People who grieve over their spiritual poverty; who will not excuse, justify, or rationalize sin; who, instead, confess sin quickly and repent of it deeply. People who are willing to say, not just “I was wrong,” but “I am truly sorry and will do whatever it takes to change.”
  3. The Meek. Not the weak or the impotent or the confident-less. Rather, those who have learned to say, “Not my will but yours be done.” The committed. The yielded. Those who trust God’s will and wisdom enough to follow anywhere he leads. Those who have given up control of their lives to God.
  4. Those who Hunger for Righteousness. People who have a passion for God’s Kingdom, who love the right, who yearn to please God with the fervor of a starving man longing for sustenance. Those who move beyond a faith fueled by duty and determination and discipline to discover a faith that bubbles up from an overwhelming desire for the holy. People who can say—and truly mean—“Above everything, I want to do what is right.”
  5. The Merciful. People who have eyes to see the hurting, whatever form that hurt may take. And not just eyes to see; hearts to feel and hands to help. Merciful people are moved by the plight of those in pain and are willing to get their hands dirty in the rescue of others. They are compassionate and responsive, “good Samaritans” at every opportunity. They love saying, “Let me help you.”
  6. The Pure in Heart. Those who have renounced masks, pretense, and hypocrisy in any guise. People who are committed to honest living, to rigorous authenticity, to genuineness and sincerity. This is not “purity” in the sense of moral rectitude, but a thoroughgoing transparency that permits others to see the inner self—warts and all. This “purity” allows disciples to say, “Here I am. Here is what God is doing in me.”
  7. The Peacemakers. Those who are committed to peace and reconciliation in their personal relationships. But not peace-at-any-price. Not principle-less peace. A peace that is rooted in genuine penitence and forgiveness, true reconciliation, shared commitments, and common cause. A peace that values relationships above pride. This is a peace possible only for those who have been broken to themselves (poverty and mourning), submitted to God (meekness and hunger), and committed to others (mercy and purity of heart).  It is a peace that allows disciples to say, “You are not expendable to me.”
  8. Those who are persecuted. People who are willing to hurt for what they believe, who will not be discouraged or dissuaded by the opposition of others. People who can withstand difficult circumstances and hard words and keep their course. Those who practice a stubborn persistence in the direction of the Kingdom despite insults, curses, and slanders. This characteristic allows disciples to say, “I will follow Jesus no matter what.”

The Beatitudes do not tell us who the Twelve actually were—as if Jesus found in these men the characteristics he was looking for in disciples and took a moment to congratulate them. No one could accuse Simon Peter of being poor in spirit or the “Sons of Thunder” of valuing peace. Judas was far from pure in heart. Even after three years of walking with Jesus, a dark night and the threat of soldiers promised more persecution than the first disciples could bear.

Rather, Jesus was defining—with the Beatitudes—the kind of people the Twelve would become. With enough time and teaching, with enough care and encouragement, with the investment of Jesus and an encounter with the Holy Spirit, these fishermen and tax collectors and farmers (spiritually immature though they were initially) would “grow up” to live in Beatitude ways.

Using the Beatitudes as a Template for Maturity

The Beatitudes, then, become a measure of what fully-grown, fully-matured disciples look like from the perspective of our Lord. The table below (Table 1) lists the Beatitudes in the left column and then arranges “stages of spiritual development” (infant, child, youth, adult) in columns to the right. As we attempt to create a “template” for measuring maturity, it is possible to fill in the “adult” column using the Beatitudes and the definitions given above. Thus, we begin our quest for a measure for maturity with a good idea of what a mature disciple looks like.

Table 2 expands this understanding of maturity by “backtracking” from the “adult” characteristics identified by Jesus to portray what an “infant” disciple might look like. By reducing the Beatitudes to their most basic level and by reflecting on characteristics of “infants” suggested by biblical usage, it may be possible to define an “entry level” of Beatitude living … Beatitudes as exemplified by the least mature disciples.

Finally, Table 3 suggests definitions for intermediate stages of development (“child” … “youth”) based again on the Beatitudes and the characteristics of “children” and “youth” suggested by biblical usage. As you will see, there are a number of blank cells in this table, just waiting for your input and suggestions.

This “Beatitude template” for measuring maturity is a work in progress. Any suggestions, changes, or additions you suggest will be carefully considered and appreciated. To react to the definitions represented by this template, just add a comment or go to the following link – www.timwoodroof.com/contact.

Table 1: Characteristics of Mature Disciples based on the Beatitudes

Beatitude

Infant

Child

Youth

Adult

Poor in Spirit




  1. Confesses and is conscious of spiritual destitution
  2. recognizes and embraces dependence on God
  3. spiritual beggars eager to confess sin and need
  4. deeply humble
  5. unafraid to say, “I was wrong”

Mourning




  1. eager to lament spiritual poverty
  2. ready to repent and change
  3. refuse to excuse, justify, or rationalize personal sin
  4. focused on personal failings, not failings of others
  5. will say, “I am sorry and will do whatever it takes to change”

Meekness




  1. committed … yielded
  2. given up control of life to God
  3. will say, “Not my will but yours be done”
  4. trusts God’s will/wisdom enough to follow where he leads
  5. tuned to the Spirit’s guidance
  6. decisions based on Scripture and spiritual discernment

Hunger




  1. a passion for God’s Kingdom
  2. hungry for righteousness and God’s ways
  3. yearning to please God with fervor and zeal
  4. moved beyond a faith fueled by “ought to” to a faith rooted in “want to”
  5. will say “Above all else, I want to do what is right”

Mercy




  1. aware of other’s needs
  2. eyes to see, heart to feel, and hands to help
  3. compassionate and responsive
  4. generous in giving or forgiving
  5. a “good Samaritan”
  6. will say, “Let me help you”

Purity




  1. commitment to honesty
  2. renounced masks, pretense, hypocrisy in any guise
  3. high levels of authenticity, genuineness, sincerity
  4. a “warts and all” transparency
  5.  will say, “Here I am. See what God is doing in me”

Peacemaker




  1. committed to relational peace
  2. values relationships above pride
  3. committed to peace rooted in penitence and forgiveness, true reconciliation, shared commitments, and common cause
  4. will say, “You are not expendable to me”

Persecuted




  1. willing to hurt for what they believe
  2. will not be discouraged or dissuaded by opposition
  3. criticism considered but not determinative
  4. can withstand difficult circumstances and hard words yet keep their course
  5. practice persistence in Kingdom directions
  6. will say, “I will follow Jesus no matter what”



Table 2: Characteristics of Immature Disciples based on the Beatitudes

Beatitude

Infant

Child

Youth

Adult

Poor in Spirit

  1. denies/minimizes sin and need
  2. self-sufficient; spiritually “rich”
  3. confession is difficult, demeaning
  4. proud rather than humble
  5. hard to admit wrong



  1. spiritually destitute
  2. dependent on God
  3. eager to confess sin/need
  4. deeply humble
  5. will say, “I was wrong”

Mourning

  1. avoids lament unless inescapable
  2. repents mostly when caught
  3. makes excuses for, rationalizes sin
  4. sees sins in others rather than self
  5. more aware of others’ failings
  6. lasting changes are difficult



  1. laments spiritual poverty
  2. ready to repent and change
  3. will not excuse, justify, or rationalize personal sin
  4. focused on personal failings
  5. “I am sorry and will change”

Meekness

  1. conditionally committed
  2. follows God wherever they want
  3. struggle with God’s will vs own will
  4. reserves right to direct own path
  5. obedience determined by situation
  6. influenced by friends/culture/habits more than God/Spirit/Scripture



  1. unconditionally committed; yielded
  2. God-controlled life
  3. “Not my will, yours be done”
  4. trusts God enough to follow wherever he leads
  5. tuned to Spirit’s guidance
  6. decisions based on Scripture and spiritual discernment

Hunger

  1. priorities do not reflect Kingdom
  2. hungry for earthly, misguided things
  3. zeal is either shallow and short-lived or wrongly-focused
  4. temptations reveal true hunger
  5. does right when convenient



  1. a passion for Kingdom
  2. hungry for righteousness
  3. fervor and zeal for God
  4. faith rooted in “want to”
  5. will say “Above all else, I want to do what is right.”

Mercy

  1. focused on own need for help
  2. aware only of most obvious needs of others (e.g., physical)
  3. unequipped to help meaningfully
  4. Struggle with generosity
  5. Helps when convenient and easy



  1. aware of other’s needs
  2. eyes see, heart feels, hands help
  3. compassionate/responsive
  4. generous in giving/forgiving
  5. a “good Samaritan”
  6. will say, “Let me help you.”

Purity

  1. prone to hiding and pretense
  2. finds “dropping guard” difficult
  3. works at “impression management”
  4. more willing to talk about strengths rather than weaknesses
  5. interactions spiritually superficial



  1. commitment to honesty
  2. no mask/pretense/hypocrisy
  3. authentic, genuine, sincere
  4. “warts and all” transparency
  5. will say, “Here I am. See what God is doing in me.”

Peacemaker

  1. conflict-averse or competitive
  2. unresolved conflict characteristic
  3. expects others to initiate peace
  4. willing to settle for politeness



  1. committed to relational peace
  2. place relationship over pride
  3. makes peace, not politeness
  4. will say, “You’re not expendable”

Persecuted

  1. “counting cost” not often practiced
  2. criticism/slander a sign of failure
  3. a people-pleaser
  4. easily discouraged by opposition
  5. find persistence difficult
  6. discipleship often situational



  1. willing to hurt for beliefs
  2. will not be discouraged or dissuaded by opposition/criticism
  3. withstands difficult circumstances and hard words
  4. practices persistence
  5. “I will follow Jesus no matter what.”


Table 3: Characteristics of Immature Disciples based on the Beatitudes

Beat.

Infant

Child

Poor in Spirit

  1. denies/minimizes sin and need
  2. self-sufficient; spiritually “rich”
  3. finds confession to be difficult, demeaning
  4. proud rather than humble
  5. hard to admit wrong
 
  1. Recognition of sin can be profound but is often fleeting and short-lived
  2. Feels deep need for God’s provision mainly in times of crisis or trauma
  3. Easily tempted to rely on self
  4. Naïve—takes credit for God’s work
  5. Confesses the small but stubbornly refuses to admit larger failings
  6. Vacillates inadequacy and self-sufficiency
  7. Can confused poverty of spirit with poor self-esteem or lack of value
  8. Knows language of confession but has not adopted the attitude and lifestyle
  9. Sees “works” as solution to poverty

Mourning

  1. avoids lament of sin unless inescapable
  2. repents when caught
  3. makes excuses, rationalizes
  4. sees sins in others easier than in self
  5. too aware of others’ failing
  6. lasting changes difficult
 
  1. grief over sin can be profound but is often fleeting and short-lived
  2. can say “I’m sorry” without much sorrow or intention to change
  3. tempted to get out of trouble rather than make substantive changes in life
  4. thinks repentance is primarily a matter of apology than changed behavior
  5. can be harshly judgmental of others’ sins
  6. drawn to a gospel of cheap grace

Meekness

  1. conditionally committed
  2. follows God if they choose
  3. struggle God’s/own will
  4. reserves right to decide
  5. obedience situational
  6. influenced by friends/culture more than God/Spirit/Bible
 
  1. Help?

Hunger

  1. priorities aren’t Kingdom
  2. hungry for earthly things
  3. zeal is shallow and short-lived or wrong-focused
  4. temptation shows hunger
  5. does right when in mood
 
  1. Help?

Mercy

  1. own need for help is focus
  2. aware of obvious needs in others (e.g., physical)
  3. unequipped to help meaningfully
  4. Struggle with generosity
  5. Helps when convenient
 
  1. Help?

Purity

  1. prone to hiding/pretense
  2. “dropping guard” difficult
  3. “impression management”
  4. talks about strengths rather than weaknesses
  5. interactions spirit shallow
 
  1. Help?

Peace-maker

  1. conflict-averse or compete
  2. much unresolved conflict
  3. others must initiate peace
  4. settles for politeness
 
  1. Help?

Persecuted

  1. “counting cost” not done
  2. Opposition a sign of failure
  3. a people-pleaser
  4. easily discouraged
  5. find persistence difficult
  6. discipleship often situational
 
  1. Help?

Table 3: (Continued)

Beat.

Youth

Adult

Poor in Spirit

  1. Often recognizes personal spiritual poverty but chaffs at it on occasion
  2. practices discipline of depending on God but often erratically
  3. Personal strength and vigor is temptation to self-sufficiency
  4. Yields to pride in its more subtle forms
  5. Drawn to those who exhibit strength and competence—even when self-generated
  6. Spirit’s gifts can be seen as personal validation rather than grace of God
  7. Outward demeanor of humility can be at odds with inward reality
 
  1. Confesses and is conscious of spiritual destitution
  2. recognizes and embraces dependence on God
  3. spiritual beggars eager to confess sin and need
  4. deeply humble
  5. unafraid to say, “I was wrong”

Mourning

  1. Knows how to grieve sin but resists doing so on occasion
 
  1. laments spiritual poverty
  2. ready to repent and change
  3. will not excuse, justify, or rationalize personal sin
  4. focused on personal failings
  5. “I am sorry and will change”

Meekness

  1. Help?
 
  1. unconditionally committed
  2. God-controlled life
  3. “Not my will, yours”
  4. trusts God enough to follow wherever he leads
  5. tuned to Spirit’s guidance
  6. decisions based on Scripture and spiritual discernment

Hunger

  1. Help?
 
  1. a passion for Kingdom
  2. hungry for righteousness
  3. fervor and zeal for God
  4. faith rooted in “want to”
  5. will say “Above all else, I want to do what is right.”

Mercy

  1. Help?
 
  1. aware of other’s needs
  2. eyes see, heart feels, hands help
  3. compassionate/responsive
  4. generous in giving/forgiving
  5. a “good Samaritan”
  6. will say, “Let me help you.”

Purity

  1. Help?
 
  1. commitment to honesty
  2. no mask or hypocrisy
  3. authentic, genuine, sincere
  4. “warts and all” transparency
  5. will say, “Here I am. See what God is doing in me.”

Peace-maker

  1. Help?
 
  1. committed to relation peace
  2. relationship over pride
  3. makes peace, not politeness
  4. “You’re not expendable”

Persecuted

  1. Help?
 
  1. willing to hurt for beliefs
  2. will not be discouraged or dissuaded by opposition
  3. withstands difficult circumstances and words
  4. practices persistence
  5. “I follow Jesus no matter”




[1] If you are interested in a more in-depth study of the Beatitudes, let me suggest my book Walk This Way.