Teaching the Beatitudes

Methods for Teaching the Beatitudes

Matthew 5:12-80

Part 1

When teachers meet to plan the teaching methods to use for teaching the Beatitudes, they will study three methods: bible study, self-testing and song. By combining these teaching methods when teaching the Beatitudes, they create a powerful tool for nurturing their students’ spiritual growth.   


I. Overview of steps in the Teachers’ Planning Meeting

A. Distribute copies of Part I, METHODS FOR TEACHING THE BEATITUDES. Four inserts are titled, Comment on Method.  

B. Distribute Part I and materials listed in Part II, BEATITUDES: MATERIALS FOR TEACHING, for each teacher.

C. Read the story, Jesus Teaches the Beatitudes, in Part I. 

D. Study each Beatitude.

E. Take the Self-Test

F. Sing, Blest Are They, by David Haas

II. Go through the lesson.

A. Begin with the story.

                           JESUS TEACHES THE BEATITUDES

Early one morning over 2000 years ago in the hill country of Palestine a young rabbi named Jesus lingered over his last breakfast with his mother, Mary. Finally, he stood and softly said, “Goodbye.” His time in Nazareth was over. 

As he walked away, he looked back and waved one more time. 

He was bound for Capernaum, a distant town on the shore of the Sea of Galilee. The two-day journey across the hills was hard but the beautiful scenery made it quite pleasant. When the town came into view, he felt a surge of excitement. This was the place where he would begin his public ministry. 

After he reached the center of Capernaum, he spent a long time wandering among the shoppers, getting to feel comfortable with them. Most people seemed poor. Some were farmers, others were fishermen, bakers or tailors. Everyone was tense because they feared the grim Roman soldiers patrolling the streets.

                                    GOOD NEWS

For several months, Jesus worked near the seashore, preaching to small groups of people and healing the sick. Slowly, he taught them that God’s love was breaking into their lives in a new and more powerful way. Their spirits soared at this news and they spread the word to all their friends. The crowd grew larger each day. Four young fishermen were especially excited by his good news. So, Jesus called to them and asked them to help him tend to the needs of the people. These were his first disciples: Peter, Andrew, James and John. Soon there were a few more.

Late one afternoon, after the crowd left, Jesus led his disciples to the top of a nearby mountain. There he asked them to sit for a while and 

listen. Since the disciples really liked the sound of his voice and his kind words, they paid close attention.

He invited them to join him in a new way of living, a way that offered great happiness. He surprised them by adding eight new Laws to the old Law. He called them, the Beatitudes. They were not strict laws engraved on stone like the 10 Commandments. They were attitudes written in their hearts that inspired loving actions.

                   THE BLESSING

To explain their importance, he said, “Whenever your action is inspired by a Beatitude, God’s love flows through you to the other person. Then, as this is happening, you are blessed with the feeling of happiness. You feel God’s pleasure.

A low murmur rumbled through the group of disciples as they reacted to Jesus’ message. They had assumed that wealth brought happiness. But Jesus now said, whether you were rich or poor, it was not wealth but sharing God’s Love that brought happiness. They would need to think about that for a while.

Seated there on the ground, listening to Jesus teach, the disciples did not realize that he was preparing them to carry the message of the Beatitudes to the whole world. 

                           STUDY THE METHODS

Comment on Method 

We begin teaching the Beatitudes with a story because God designed the human brain to learn best from stories. When students read the tale of the day Jesus taught the Beatitudes to his disciples, they are quickly drawn into the world of ancient Palestine. In their imaginations, they enter the scene. They see the mountainside. They see the people by the seashore. They hear Jesus speak. 

The next stories are stories told by Jesus. They ease students into many of the scenes from that long-ago time. The actions of the people within them help students understand the Beatitudes. After studying these biblical examples, it is the task of the teacher to show how the Beatitudes can add joy and comfort to their lives, today. XXX

B. Teach each Beatitude.

Each of the eight Beatitudes has two parts. The first part names an attitude and the second part describes the blessing (happiness) it gives. 

                                             Poor in Spirit

1. Happy are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of God.


Poor in spirit means humble and willing to receive. These people are good listeners, interested in hearing the opinions and stories of others. 

The blessing, “For theirs is the Kingdom of God,” means that God rules their hearts. Their joys increase as they become more receptive to what others have to give. The Kingdom of God is a lifestyle, not a place.

Read Mark 10:17-25

The Rich Young Man

Discussion Questions

Try to explain the rich young man’s decision. Do you agree or disagree with Jesus’ advice? Should everyone give their wealth away? 

Comment on Method

Teachers ask questions because questions are like an alarm clock. They awaken the class and focus its attention. This method forces students to struggle with the issues.

Teacher’s Summary

Jesus taught that happiness comes, not from material wealth, but from warm, personal friendships. Even though the rich man felt empty, he valued his wealth more than the friendship Jesus offered. Most likely, he will never be happy.

Those who do value love over wealth need not give all their wealth away. Many of Jesus’ followers were wealthy people who shared their wealth. See, Luke 8:3. Also, Mary, Martha and Joseph of Arimathea were wealthy followers. Wealth is bad for a person if being rich is the purpose of his or her life. 

                                    Those Who Mourn

2. Happy are those who mourn (with another). They shall be comforted.


A Good Samaritan is one who gives comfort to someone who has lost something important to him or her. Loss can result from a death, a friend moving away, failure in school, work or sports. People also mourn loss of health or theft of a treasured object. 

The blessing, means that the comforter feels God’s pleasure when he aids or consoles an injured person.  

Read Luke 10:30-37

The Good Samaritan

Discussion Questions

Describe a time when you felt good about helping someone. Was that feeling a sign of God’s pleasure?

Teacher’s Summary

In this story, the Good Samaritan mourns for the victim, gives comfort and feels happy that he could help. Since this lesson needs little explanation, ask students to describe more ways that people can give comfort. A visit or phone call. A kind word. An offer to help.  

                                             The Gentle

3. Happy are the gentle, they shall inherit the earth.


The gentle seek the softest way to resist unfair treatment. Then, they give the Holy Spirit time to work. They never speak with intent to hurt.

The blessing, “inherit the earth,” means, things often go their way. Probably because they do not build walls between themselves and others. 

Read Luke 22:24-27 

Who is the Greatest?

Discussion Questions

Do you know anyone, real or in fiction, who thinks he or she is better than others?

Teacher’s Summary

It is very difficult for talented people to be humble. People can be pleased with their talents as long as they understand that they have been given their talents to enrich the life of others. In this way they serve God, not themselves. 

                           Those Who Thirst for What Is Right

4. Happy are those who thirst for what is right. They shall be satisfied.


These folks are honest in word and deed. They see and accept reality. They admit their mistakes. They enjoy praise for doing well.

The blessing, “They shall be satisfied,” means that they feel content because they did their best. Results are in the hands of God.

Read Luke 16:19-31

The Rich Man and Lazarus

Discussion Question

Since the rich man often passed by the beggar at his gate, why do you suppose he failed to stop and give him something?

Teacher’s Summary

Jesus’ example for this Beatitude describes a man who failed to practice it. The rich man did not want to see a person in need. Perhaps he distracted himself with thoughts of lunch with a friend or plans for a shopping trip. His self-centered thoughts caused him to be spiritually blind.

                                             The Merciful

5. Happy are the merciful, they shall receive mercy.


The merciful are kind, generous and understanding. They avoid harsh judgements. They accept apologies. They give people more than they deserve.

The blessing, “They shall receive mercy,” means that kindness begets kindness. 

Read Luke 15:11-32

The Lost Son

Discussion Question

Why did the Father rebuke the elder son? Was the father fair?

Teacher’s Summary

In this parable, the Father stands for God. It tells us how God judges  people who fail to be merciful. The father rebuked the elder son because he was self-righteous. Had he shared his father’s joy, he would have been treated kindly. 

                                    (The Pure of Heart)

6. Happy are the pure of heart, for they shall see God.


The pure of heart are those with good motives. They do not lie or try to manipulate others.

The blessing, “They shall see God,” means they feel God’s presence.

Read Matthew 20:20-21, 24-28

(The Mother of James and John)

Discussion Question

Why was Jesus so upset with the mother’s request?

Teacher’s Summary

Jesus, sternly denied the mother’s request because she was a manipulator. He wanted no power grabs among his people. He taught them to use power only to serve the good of others.

                                             (The Peacemakers)

7. Happy are the peacemakers, they shall be called Sons of God.


Peacemakers accept disagreements as normal. Peaceful, describes the way they resolve them. Mutual respect and the desire to listen to another point of view are the top values.

The blessing, “They shall be called Sons of God,” means that others see them as God’s instruments.

Read Colossians 3:18-21

(The Christian Family and Anger)

Discussion questions

What do some people do when they are angry? How do you feel when someone calls you a nasty name? Why is name-calling wrong?

Teacher’s Summary

When we are angry, we tend to use strong words that make things worse. So, Paul taught his people a guideline for resolving conflicts. It began with the word, submit. In ancient Greek this word meant, to listen. Paul urged people to listen to each other when they were angry. Name-calling or other attack words trigger counter attacks, not peace.

                                    (Those Who Are Persecuted)

8. Happy are those who are persecuted in a cause that is just, for theirs is the Kingdom of God. 


The persecuted have the courage to endure ongoing harm. They risk their popularity in order to resist a wrong.

The blessing, “For theirs is the Kingdom of God,” means they do not suffer alone. God is in their hearts. He walks with them and he talks with them.

Read Mark 3:1-6

(A Sabbath Cure)

Discussion Question

Were you surprised when the Pharisees wanted to destroy Jesus after he performed a good deed?

Teacher’s Summary 

The Jews believed that it was a sin to work on the Sabbath. And, healing was work. But, Jesus wanted to teach people that sometimes mercy was more important than blind obedience to law. Even though he knew it was dangerous, Jesus healed a man on a Sabbath.

But the Pharisees could not accept this. They feared Jesus’ disobedience to the law would cause God to punish the nation. For this reason, they wanted him executed.  

9. Apply the lessons of the Beatitudes to ourselves.

                                             The Self-Test

A. Ask the students to take the Self-Test. Assure them that the test is for their eyes only. 

Discussion Questions

After the students have finished the test, ask: Which is the hardest/easiest Beatitude to practice?

Teacher’s Summary

Learning to live according to the Beatitudes is a life-long task. The Self-Test is a tool students can use to monitor their spiritual growth. Ask them to save the Self-Test and review it every few months.

 Comment on Method

Taking a self-test is a method for teaching one’s self. It invites and enables private, personal reflection.

B. Conclude the lesson.

  Sing a Hymn 

Distribute lyrics for a CD sing-a-long. Play, Blest are They, by David Haas.

Comment on Method

This lesson uses three teaching methods. The first two, bible study and the self-test, educate the mind. The third method, singing, educates the emotions. This is good because the more pathways to the brain teachers use when teaching a lesson, the better the students retain it.

Each time students sing this hymn in church the lessons of the Beatitudes will come alive for them. When they sing the refrain, “Rejoice and be glad. Yours is the Kingdom of God,” they will feel joy in the Lord. You might ask the choir director to include this song in the worship service every so often. XXX

This lesson on the Beatitudes is best used for junior high through adult classes.  It may require more than one class.

Key Words

35… Teach

24…  Beatitudes

14 … Methods

18… Transitional words or phrases

Part 2 of Jean Furgal’s Beatitudes lessons for the teacher trainer will be published here shortly. Thank you for reading.

How the Resurrection Helps Me

This commentary describes the personal benefits that come from uniting our lives to Christ’s risen life. How the Resurrection Helps Me gives teachers more ideas for helping their students decide to join their lives to Christ. It also supplies teachers with additional commentary for my Teaching The Resurrection Series.

The New Possibility for Our Lives

Most students cannot explain how the Resurrection helps them. So, it is our job as teachers to inspire them to know and desire its benefits. To do this, our best approach is to involve them in the story as told by the first twelve Apostles.

We religion teachers are their successors.

Through His apostles Christ invited everyone, everywhere to unite his or her life to His risen life.* In a letter to the Christian church in Corinth, St. Paul described the reward for those who accepted this gift: “You then, are the body of Christ. Every one of you is a member of it.” (1 Cor. 12:27)

So what exactly does that text mean to each of us? What is our reward for becoming members of the Body of Christ?

To answer this question I will first summarize the message. Next I will show Paul in action—trying to teach it to a difficult group of new converts. His struggle with both his own impatience and the resistance of the converts makes for dramatic reading.

The Spiritual Body—St. Paul

In order to define this concept, we must first realize that we are dealing with two miracles that can’t be fully explained. Scripture tells us that Jesus’ risen body was a new life form. For want of a better word, Paul termed it a “spiritual body.” (I Cor 15:44)

Second, we must realize that at the moment we are baptized into the Body of Christ, another miracle occurs. Paul explains it by saying, “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation…” (2 Corinthians 5:17). In other words, we, the baptized, have a new, divine energy that is driven by the power of Christ’s love. This new energy expands our capacity to feel peace, love, comfort, and joy. It also destines us for heaven after this lifetime. But just as important, our earthly reward is an elevated level of life, which is a more satisfying way to live.

These wonderful feelings are just one of the many ways how the Resurrection helps me.

Examples: How the Resurrection Helps Me

Because the opportunity for us to live in Christ’s risen life was created by His resurrection, we Christians believe it was the most important event in the history of the world.

To help us understand the experience of living in Christ, our Lord offered a comparison. He said, “I am the vine and you are the branches” (John 15:5). This image tells us that His divine life nourishes our own spiritual lives in the same way that a grapevine carries nourishment to its branches. And, the form of the nourishment is His love (John 15:9).

In many ways, some of Paul’s converts were similar to our students. The converts were losing their enthusiasm for Christianity. For example, they claimed that life was too boring when they followed the rules of Christian morality. They felt it was more fun to be a pagan.

While our young people do not want to be pagans, some do have a problem with enthusiasm for the Christian lifestyle.

Trouble in Corinth Besets Paul

Paul’s success in inspiring these complainers to become happy Christians shows us that he was a really great teacher. We teachers, therefore, should pay attention to him. So let’s take a look at what he did for the grumbling new converts in Corinth. Perhaps we might even find that we like some of his material.

Around 56 A.D., Paul left his ministry in Corinth and went to Ephesus to establish another new church. One day, he received the first of a series of letters from the leaders of the church in Corinth. All were requests for advice regarding a storm, caused by the new converts, who wanted to continue engaging in immoral pagan practices.

Paul’s return letters were later combined to form the book of the Bible titled Paul’s First Epistle to the Corinthians. It contains the best description ever written about the personal benefits of the Resurrection.

During the years of Paul’s ministry Corinth was viewed by Christians as the “sin capital” of the Mediterranean world, much like a giant Playboy Club. Corinth was a seaside city with a busy harbor. Most of the townspeople worshiped Aphrodite, the godess of fertility. In so doing, they made full use of the hundreds of “sacred” prostitutes who lived in the Temple of Aphrodite during the day and worked the streets at night. And, sailors on leave from their ships filled the taverns and chased the girls. Party time was all the time in downtown Corinth.

In contrast to this party lifestyle, Christians practiced fidelity in marriage, modesty in dress, and drank in moderation.

Paul Teaches Converts How the Resurrection Helps Them

Paul’s message to the rebellious new converts encourages them to see the advantages of the Christian lifestyle. Since the story reads like a drama, I will present my description of it as a play in three scenes. This dialog is not biblical, but it is true to the spirit of the events.

The Converts’ Question

Cast of Characters in Order of Appearance

Gaius: Paul’s secretary and traveling companion

Paul: the Apostle who founded the church in Corinth

Church Leader: one of the men who administers the church in Corinth

Converts’ Spokesman: an unhappy convert who is a member of the church in Corinth

Scene 1

(Paul and Gaius are sitting on a veranda overlooking the seashore near Ephesus. Gaius is reading Paul’s mail to him.)

Gaius: Ah! Here is a letter from our leaders in Corinth. They seem a bit angry with you, Paul. They describe difficulties with your new converts. Listen to this:

“That bunch of ex pagans you added to our church are growing rowdy. After they lived for a while without the pleasures of Aphrodite, they have given us no peace. They constantly ask us what they can do for fun now that they are Christians! They are very slow to catch on to the rewards of the Christian lifestyle! All they do is complain that Christian morality is too strict. Please give us some advice. Tell us what they can do for fun?”

(Paul, well-known for his quick temper, jumps up and responds in anger.)

Paul: So, they miss the pleasures of the flesh, do they? What is wrong with them? They can’t live like pagans and still be Christians! Are they leaving the church?

Gaius: Calm down, Paul. Things can’t be that serious.

Paul (impatient): Maybe! But maybe not! Pick up your pen, Gaius. I will send my answer. Now!

Scene 2

(The congregation in Corinth is meeting in a leader’s home for the Sunday service. The people are seated. The Church Leader holds up a letter and begins to read it in a scolding tone of voice.)

Church Leader: Good morning. Today we have a letter from Apostle Paul, which I shall read to you. After we learned that some of you were not happy with the restrictions of Christianity, we wrote to him, asking him to advise you. This is Paul’s reply:

“To my brothers and sisters in Christ, who think the Christian lifestyle too difficult. I find your question, ‘What can we do for fun?’ distressing. This is the wrong question. It is wrong because it deals only with physical pleasures.

(1 Cor. 6:15-20): “Don’t you realize that your bodies are actually part of Christ? Should a man take his body, which is a part of Christ, to a prostitute? Never! And don’t you realize that if a man joins himself to a prostitute, he becomes one body with her? Run from sexual sin. No other sin so clearly affects the body as this one does. For sexual immorality is a sin against your own body. Don’t you realize that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, who lives in you and was given to you by God? You do not belong to yourself, for God bought you with a high price. So you must honor God with your body.”

Converts’ Spokesman (Stands and addresses Church Leader): What kind of answer is that? He insults us. Write to Paul again. Repeat our question. What we can do for enjoyment if we give up the pagan ways. What is allowed? Ask him to be specific.

How the Resurrection Helps Me Enjoy Life

In his next letters to the Corinthians, we see that Paul summoned his patience and composed what became his most famous text, Hymn to Love (1 Cor. 13). In this part of his letter, Paul sought to impress the converts with the beauty of their new identity. To present the full sweep of how it feels to live a life inspired by Christ’s love, I suggest the teacher read aloud to the class all of 1 Corinthians 13. It is especially magnificent. In fact, Prof. Thomas Cahill describes it as a “Hymalayan peak of world literature.” **

What I see in these passages is that Paul urged the converts to view themselves in a new way. They were no longer “playboys.” They were holy. And, as they joined more fully into the activities of the Christian community, they would feel their sense of holiness growing stronger and stronger every day.

Paul urged them to worship together and proclaim the Good News to others. If they did so, Paul explained, their personalities would be transformed. Inner joy would replace the fleeting excitement they found on the streets. They would would feel less anxiety, and their desire to sin would steadily weaken.

Was Paul’s ministry to the church in Corinth successful? Details are hard to find. But, we do know that the church in Corinth continued to grow. Before long, the Temple of Aphrodite was Christianized.

How the Resurrection Helps Me Become Holy

Paul’s wise counsel to the new converts helps us as much as it did the converts. Whenever we, today, ponder the question, “How does the Resurrection help me,” we discover that the more we participate in the divine life that permeates the Christian community, the more the quality of our lives is elevated. In addition to inner peace, we also gain the satisfaction that comes with the sharing of talents.

Singers create beautiful music for us. Artists decorate our churches and homes. Chefs create luscious meals. Athletes draw us into exciting games. Teachers inspire us to learn. Doctors heal our wounds. Tailors make attractive clothing for us, and carpenters build comfortable homes. Caregivers minister to orphans and the poor. And, ministers encourage us to be strong in our faith.

As all of us contribute to the good of the community, our love for one another grows and life becomes more enjoyable.

(1 Corinthians 12:4-7)

This is the definition of spiritual growth. That is our fun!

Nurturing Our Life in Christ

Christ’s life within us can either bloom or it can fade. If we wish to continue living a life inspired by His love, we must regularly nourish our relationship with Him. Traditional methods are: daily prayer, Sunday worship, participation in the activities of the church community, spiritual reading, Bible study, and joining with other Christians to do works of charity and mercy.

Some folks include more personal ways to nourish the relationship. For example, I listen to my favorite hymns as I drive to work. This puts me in a prayerful mood because I feel that Christ is speaking to me through the music. He reminds me to consider my activities during the day as ministry.

How the Resurrection Helps Me When God Seems Far Away.

When tragedies occur, we can feel forgotten by God. We might ask, “How could a loving God allow this disaster to happen to me?” Or, “Why does God answer my neighbor’s prayers, but not mine?”

I do not have answers to these questions. None of us know the mind of God. For all of us, there are times when He seems remote.

The divine life within us helps us trust that God is near. We have, however, one important thing to keep in mind. While God may not change events for us, He will surely comfort us when we turn to Him.

There is a story that illustrates this. Some years back, when I was attending an ecumenical biblical seminar, I found myself sitting next to an elderly nun in full habit. This was a strange sight because nuns by then wore modern clothing. When I cocked my head and lifted an eyebrow, she laughed, raised her skirt enough to reveal knee-high hiking boots. Then she winked at me.

Of course I was immediately enchanted by her radiant demeanor. As is common at these events, we shared our stories. And hers certainly topped mine!

The Nun in Prison

Four years earlier, the elderly nun and her pastor had been working as missionaries in North Korea. One cold November morning they were arrested, stripped of their clothing, and shoved—naked—into two adjoining cells at the unheated dungeon of a Korean jail. Of course they prayed for help. Then, several weeks into their ordeal, a package containing long underwear arrived for the pastor. He kept the bottoms and she wore the top.

It took three years of negotiations to obtain their release. Soon after I asked if there were times when her faith faltered, and I will always remember her answer. She said, “I was never so close to Jesus as I was when I had nothing.” she said. “But now,” she chuckled, “I have something. These boots. I love them. After all those years of frozen feet, I am sure they are a gift from Jesus.”

Talk about How the resurrection helps me! I was both inspired and humbled. This nun never forgot that she lived in the Risen Life of Christ.

How the Resurrection Helps Me and the World

While our role in Christ’s plan for saving the world is vital, His plan is larger than you and me. When we share His love, it flows through us and into the world. It gains momentum and grows.

A New Heaven and a New Earth

The fulfillment of the Second Coming will be the day that all creation is filled with His divine love (Rev. 21:1-3).


* There are several names for the divine life. Some are: God, God’s love, grace, Risen Life, and Life of Christ. These terms are often used interchangeably. Different denominations favor different words.

** Prof. Thomas Cahill, Desire of the Everlasting Hills, page 136.

History Of Christmas In America

H ave you ever wondered about the history of Christmas in America? One day last December, I sat in my living room watching a beautiful, gentle snowfall. I was thinking about the holidays, recalling our family Thanksgiving and comparing it to the Pilgrims’ first feast in America. Then, a question popped into my mind. How did the Pilgrims celebrate Christmas? So, off to the library I went. I was particularly interested to learn which Christmas carols the pilgrims sang.

I was stunned to discover that the first Pilgrims never celebrated Christmas. In fact, for a number of years it was a crime to celebrate Christmas in the northern colonies! In this they were going along with the Puritans back in England, where Oliver Cromwell, the Head Of State for England, had declared Christmas celebrations to be a criminal offense.

Continue reading History Of Christmas In America