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Related Bible reading(s): Matthew 5.1-12

Bible study on Matthew 5.1-12

This study can be used by a small family/household group, or by an online group,
or – sometimes with a little adaptation – by an individual.

See our Guidelines for a weekly Bible study

Begin with an opening prayer

A prayer of approach

Source of all wisdom,
source of all goodness,
we come into your presence today
to learn more of you and your ways.
May we choose justice,
love kindness,
and walk humbly with you, our God.


Read the passage

Consider different ways to read the text. For example, hearing it in more than one version of the Bible.

In an online group, you could share parts between those present, or use/adapt this week’s Share the Word suggestion: Use the Jump to this week's menu on the right to go to Share the Word and scroll down to find the Gospel reading.


Explore and respond to the text

Start by reading the Bible notes below. You may want to read them more than once, or pause after each paragraph to reflect on what you have read.


Bible notes

The eight-pointed Maltese cross is sometimes seen as representing the eight Beatitudes (vv.3-10). Many of these sayings contain a surprising reversal, such as the meek inheriting the earth. Reversals such as these are featured in the Magnificat (Luke 1.46-55, especially vv.52-53) and give a feel of God intervening at a moment in history. Not all the Beatitudes focus on the future, however – the poor in spirit and those who are persecuted for doing right already possess the kingdom of heaven. The word ‘blessed’ can also be misleading here. Such a technical religious word can make these statements sound as if some kind of suffering or struggle besets a believer, and then God ‘blesses’ them in order to recompense them for their difficulties. But the Greek word translated ‘blessed’ here means something closer to ‘O the happiness of…’ or even ‘Good for you!’ The ‘blessing’ – the ‘good fortune’ – is in the very situation that is difficult or demanding, rather than in some additional divine gift. There is a different Greek word for giving a blessing in this sense (see James 3.10; Hebrews 12.17). 

What is Jesus saying in these startling statements at the beginning of this major sermon? I think we are being challenged to look at vulnerability, difficulties and challenges in a new way – not as signs that we are far from God or lacking in faith, but as if our pains can be the very birth pains of the kingdom of heaven. It is not being strong and knowing everything that marks us out as disciples but being open-hearted to those around us.


See also: In conversation: Careful choices

Rachel Nicholls and Jonathan Buckley discuss:
disappointment, loss and failure;
‘seeing and being the light’;
and learning to be humble.



Spend a few moments thinking about what stands out for you from the Bible reading. This idea may help.

‘Blessed are those who ...’, says Jesus to his disciples – and to us. How are we blessed? Does God bless us by a wave of his divine hand? ‘To bless’ is sometimes seen as a wish for something good, a favour, happiness for another. But blessing in the Beatitudes is something present, something ‘now’ – blessed are, not blessed will be. We are blessed as we live with each other, in and through all of life’s challenges, striving always to be a blessing to others. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the many hymns and songs in which we ‘bless the Lord’. The Lord already has all he needs! We live in blessing when our lives are pleasing to God..


Questions for reflection

You could also use the image and following questions to help introduce the theme.

Click on the image to view a larger version
or use the Jump menu to go to This week's images.
For artist's details, see this issue's illustrators.


  • What surprisingly beautiful things grow in dark places?
  • Have you experienced growth during or after a difficult experience?
  • How might you support someone who is experiencing a tough time?


A simple activity

Share blessings. 

  • Ask: Do you feel blessed? Invite people to share ways in which they have recently been or felt blessed. We can also be a blessing to each other. Again, invite people to share recent personal stories and examples.
  • Namaste is an Indian non-contact blessing or greeting, made with hands pressed together in front of you as you gently bow to another person. It symbolises the idea that ‘The God in me bows to the God in you’.

Encourage everyone to bless each other in this way. You could, at the same time, say ‘Peace be with you’ or ‘The peace of Christ’ or similar. Then read Psalm 15 and sing or play the Taizé song, ‘Bless the Lord, my Soul’ or ‘Bless the Lord oh my Soul’ by Matt Redman.

Use the Jump to this week's menu on the right to go to more activities in Explore and respond. 



Adapt to your local context.

A prayer of thanksgiving

God of peace, justice, mercy and love,
thank you that in you we inherit the earth.
Thank you that we are your children.
Thank you that as we mourn, we are comforted.
Thank you that as we seek for righteousness, we are filled.
Thank you that in you we receive your mercy.
Thank you that we can see you through our changed hearts.
Thank you that in your upside-down kingdom,
we find rest, peace, comfort and assurance of your presence.
Thank you, Lord, that in life’s darker times, we are never alone –
You are always by our side.

Use the Jump to this week's menu on the right to find more prayers,
including up-to-date intercessions.


A prayer to end the Bible study

Lord, you bless us in so many ways.
You love us just as we are.
And you also want us to grow closer to you.
Show us how we can bless others
by putting them and you before ourselves.
May we walk humbly with you every day.


Go with God 24/7

Encourage everyone to put their faith into action.

Keep a copy of Micah 6.8 close to hand all the time, and refer to it as often as possible, asking yourself, ‘So, what can I do today?’


Encourage everyone to explore their faith this week with the ROOTS at home resource.

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