Pure in heart means more than simply being righteous or clean. It’s a single-hearted desire and choice to seek God and see God in every part of our lives.
Blessed are the pure in heart, For they shall see God. (Matthew 5:8)
The word ‘pure’ in this verse is usually understood as being ‘clean,’ which implies an absence of anything impure. The impression usually conveyed in all the teachings on this I have heard is that of righteousness or having been purified from sin. While all of this is relevant and necessary, there is a better interpretation that opens up an entirely different and richly significant perspective that is all too often overlooked. Most of us, on hearing this verse, are automatically inspired to search our hearts to find any ‘unrighteousness’ in us. While this is a good and valuable exercise – one we should aspire to constantly – it’s very limited and excludes deeper spiritual principle. To be pure in heart is living a life like a single road that leads only to God.
Pure in heart is a be-attitude.
I personally love the beatitudes – the attitudes we should all strive to be, or to live. They have a beautiful simplicity that wonderfully defines God’s grace to His people. This particular one encapsulates a longing in every believer – to see God. The real truth of the beatitudes is that they don’t define what we have to be. They define an attitude, a way in which we are to live. The word ‘pure’ here is the Greek word katharos. As we’ve said, the translation as pure or clean is not entirely incorrect, but it is incomplete. A more literal translation is: to be without admixture, to be simply one thing. In other words, it means to be a single thing without anything else mixed in. The better and richer translation, then, is to be single-hearted. This very obviously is an attitude rather than something we do or are.
It also alleviates the impossibility that we must be pure or clean before we can see God. At this point, we must avoid confusion. Righteousness is required, but it’s something we can never do for ourselves. That’s why the cross was necessary. Jesus Himself has become our righteousness, and providing we pursue righteousness through confession and repentance, we are always assured of His righteousness. We cannot continue to sin and still claim His righteousness. To be single-hearted, though, is entirely different. Its having an attitude that is focused entirely one thing – on God. A single-hearted attitude doesn’t pretend that our human failings and weaknesses doesn’t exist. What it does do, however, it choose to look for God in every aspect of life, no matter what the situation or circumstances. A pure heart is one that seeks after God and does not allow anything to interfere or mix in.
We choose to be pure in heart.
It’s easy to compromise in life, often without realising it. We’re conditioned to compartmentalise things – work, home, fun, and God. On a purely natural level, this separation has merit. It enables us to achieve a balance in all areas of life and to maintain an acceptable order. The only exception, however, is God. To live a full and meaningful life, we must first acknowledge that He is God in every part of our lives. He cannot be excluded from anything. When we surrender ourselves at salvation it includes everything. God intends to be Lord of our lives, not a part of our lives. The pure in heart accept this joyfully. They seek His will and purpose and live to please Him in everything. Their heart is always and only towards God. The be-attitude here makes God the focus and the destination, our ‘true North’ in all we do.
While attitudes are often shaped by circumstances, upbringing, and learned values, they are ultimately a matter of choice. The same applies even more powerfully to the be-attitudes. The world and what we have experienced will never ‘shape’ us to be pure in heart. That is something we have to decide for ourselves. A decision involves looking from all angles and then choosing a particular thing. The be-attitudes summarise the ‘right things’ that we should choose. The Bible is clear about not following two masters. This is the crux of this particular verse. To be ‘single-hearted’ means to choose to make God our master and to direct all our energy and focus to Him alone. It doesn’t mean we ignore our worldly responsibilities. But it does mean that we surrender them all to Him and seek His will without reservation. The single-hearted believer is one who holds nothing back.
The pure in heart see God.
In essence, to be pure in heart is its own reward. When our heart is entirely focused on God, we acknowledge that He directs all things. The result of this is that we ‘see’ God in everything because we have placed everything in Him. We see His works in creation and in our lives through the daily blessings. He is visible in the little things and the large. His provision, grace, blessing, protection, and mercy is evident and a vital testimony to His love and care. When we are single-hearted, nothing can crowd out or obscure the vivid evidence of a living God who concerns Himself with the details of our lives. The Bible tells us over and over that God reveals Himself to those who seek Him. If we’re not seeing Him, or not seeing enough of Him, we need to examine our heart attitude.
There is an even more beautiful reward for the pure in heart. When we are single-hearted, God will personally meet with us. We may not see Him visibly until the last day, after which we will see Him forever, but we will ‘see’ with the eyes of the spirit. God does not have to be visible for us to know that we are in His presence. He does not have clothe Himself in the flesh to assure us of His holiness, power, and glory. When we draw near in worship, single-hearted in our desire to meet with Him, He will respond with love and grace and draw us closer. We will see Him in His Word, in the stillness of listening and worship, and in the radiance of His Shekinah glory. God will always reveal Himself to those who seek Him single-heartedly.
Desire to be pure in heart
As in all things, God is gracious to reach out and help us when we truly desire to be pure in heart. If we desire to see God, we must also desire to be single-hearted. The two cannot be separated. A simple choice can change the way we live and our attitude to God. Desire can only be fulfilled when we act on it, and making the decision to be pure in heart centres our desire where it needs to be. The things of this world are loud and demanding, constantly clamouring for attention and distracting us from a single-hearted focus on Him. When we choose to make Him Lord of all our doings, we will find that all our doings begin to move towards Him. To see God in everything is a blessing beyond measure, one He desires to pour out to hearts which reach unreservedly for Him.
Lord, Your grace is immeasurable. Thank You that You desire to be the centre of all our doings, the due North of all our coming in and going out. Grant us the wisdom to surrender every aspect of our lives to You. Open our eyes that we may see You in every detail, large or small. Thank You for the precious blessing that enables us to see You through Your works in our lives and for the privilege of being able to enter into Your holy presence.