Happy Are Those Persecuted For Righteousness’ Sake, Because Theirs Is The Reign Of The Heavens
Persecuted for righteousness sake.–Here again there is a profound significance in the order. The work of the peacemakers is not a light and easy work. Often, as of old, when we “labour for peace,” men “make them ready for battle” (Psalm 120:7); but not the less is the blessing sure to follow. Amid seeming failure or seeming success, those who are persecuted, not for opinions, but for right conduct, the true martyrs and confessors of righteousness, attain their reward at last. There is something suggestive in the fact that the last promise is the same as the first. We end, as we began, with “the kingdom of heaven;” but the path by which we have been led leads us to see that that includes all the intermediate blessings, of which at first it seemed but the prelude and beginning.
Verse 10. – Which are persecuted; which have been persecuted (Revised Version); οἱ δεδιωγμένοι. “Those who are harassed, hunted, spoiled. The term is properly used of wild beasts pursued by hunters, or of an enemy or malefactor in flight” (Wetstein). Our Lord, by the use of the perfect, wishes to indicate
(1) the fact that they have endured persecution, and still stand firm; and probably
(2) the condition of temporal loss to which they have been reduced by such persecution. They have “suffered the loss,” possibly, “of all things,” but they are “blessed.” For righteouness’ sake (ἕνεκεν δικαιοσύνης). No article (contrast ver. 6), either as indicating that for even a part of righteousness persecution can be undergone, or, and more probably, simply dwelling on the cause of persecution without idealizing it. St. Peter also says, perhaps with a reference to our Lord’s words, that they who suffer διὰ δικαιοσύνην are μακάριοι (1 Peter 3:14). For theirs is the kingdom of heaven. The same promise that was given to “the poor in spirit” (ver. 3) is here given to the persecuted for righteousness’ sake. In the former case, poverty in the sphere of the spirit obtains the fullest possessions; here the same promise is given to temporal loss produced by faithfulness to the cause of righteousness. In ver. 3 our Lord removed all occasion for intellectual and spiritual pride. Here he comforts for temporal and social losses (cf. especially 2 Corinthians 6:10; further see ver. 3, note). Clement of Alexandria, ‘Strom.,’ 4:6 (p. 582, Potter)
(1) confuses this and the preceding Beatitude;
(2) gives a curious reading of some who alter the Gospels: “Blessed are they who have been persecuted through righteousness (ὑπὸ τῆς δικαιοσύνης), for they shall be perfect; and blessed are they who have been persecuted for my sake, for they shall have a place where they shall not be persecuted” (cf. Westcott, ‘Introd. Gospp.,’ Appendix C).
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