THE RADICAL STATEMENTS JESUS MADE ALMOST required an accompanying disclaimer— "Caution! If followed as prescribed, this could turn world upside down." Just about everything Jesus said or did seemed to contradict the accepted cultural views of his time, resulting in, more often than not, religious and social upheaval.
His comments on what constitutes true happiness or contentment in life are no exception. In the New Testament Gospel of Luke, Jesus defines the poor, weeping, starving, and hated as "happy." See Luke 6:20–23 (TEV). The Gospel of Matthew adapts and adds to this list, and the result is a series of nine short statements, each one beginning with the promise of happiness. See Matt. 5:3–12 (TEV) .
Commonly known today as the Beatitudes, these sayings not only redefine happiness, they show that each person has the natural ability to experience this happiness. Natural because, as the statements suggest, true happiness comes from God. They tell not so much what humanity needs to do in order to become superficially happy, but what God does to establish the foundation for spiritual happiness, the kind of happiness that lasts.