The Bliss of a Clean Heart

   Written by on July 6, 2017 at 9:42 am

logo-crotts-stephenBlessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God. Matth

Oliver Wendell Holmes wrote, “Now and then men’s minds and hearts are stretched by a new idea and never shrink back to their original dimensions.” Certainly the Sermon on the Mount is such an idea. And certainly our lives are being stretched never to be the same again.

We come now to the sixth beatitude, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.”

What It Means

The Greek word for pure is katharos. We get our name Kathryn from it. Besides being a wonderful name, katharos has several uses. It can mean “clean,” as in “Are the clothes clean?” It can mean “sifted,” as in “Has this wheat been winnowed?” It can even mean “purged,” as in “Has this army unit been purged of all cowardly and ineffective soldiers?”

It can mean “unmixed,” as in “This wine hasn’t been watered down, has it?”  And, finally, katharos can also mean “unalloyed,” as in “This ring is pure gold. It has not been alloyed with any other metal.”

So, what does the sixth beatitude mean? “O the bliss, the blessed fulfillment of the pure, the clean of heart, those unalloyed . . .”

It is a fair question to ask what it means to be “pure of heart.” The Greek word for heart is kardia which means “the middle,” or “the thoughts and feelings and will of a human.” Simply put, the heart is the center of one’s personality.

Hence, the purity Jesus is speaking of is not so much the outer cleanliness of a scrubbed face, clean hands and feet. Rather, it is the inner cleanliness of thoughts, motives and feelings.

As an example, consider the Pharisees of Jesus’ day. They dressed with ceremonial appropriateness, ritually washed their faces and hands, and extraordinarily performed every religious rite— fasting, tithing, praying, praising. Yet in Luke 11:39 Jesus criticized these Pharisees harshly, “You make clean the outside of the cup, but your inward part is full of extortion and wickedness.”

You see, it’s rather easy to look religious by getting dressed up, taking a seat on a pew, being baptized, having your name on a church roll and mouthing a hymn. But while one sits there looking pious, one can be brimming full of jealousy, lust, pride, and anger.

Martin Luther wrote, “Christ wants to have the heart pure, though outwardly the person may be a drudge in the kitchen, black, sooty, grimy, doing all sorts of dirty work.”

So, “blessed are the pure in heart . . . , fulfilled are the clean, the unalloyed, the sifted, the purged . . . blessed are these pure, not just on the surface, but inside as well.” That is something of what this beatitude means. Now this….

The Trouble with Purity

Sigmund Freud, the father of modern psychology, taught that there are only two motives: sex and money.

If in your busy week you will pause and inquire of yourself, “Why am I doing this?” you will surely find you have some hope for financial gain or you are flirting so as to be thought clever, attractive, and even desirable sexually. Truly these two motives lurk in the shadows of the human heart, motivating what we do. Oh, we may deceive ourselves, veneer our motives with pious talk, but as the prophet Jeremiah observed, “The heart is deceitful above all else, and desperately corrupt. Who can know it?” (Jeremiah 17:9).

In 1971 I visited the Soviet Union. While in Leningrad I found an old Christian cathedral now housing a museum of atheism. Inside was chronicled every failure, every sham, every loveless deed of Christendom. I’ll never forget holding a lovely crucifix, golden and bejeweled. The curator smiled and said, “Nice, isn’t it? But push this button and see what happens!” I did and to my horror, a dagger blade shot forth from the bottom of the cross. Such is the human heart.

Several years ago, at the height of the televangelists’ sex and money scandals, Skip Stogsdill and I interviewed Billy Graham at the Grove Park Inn in Asheville, North Carolina. “How do you stay pure, Mr. Graham?” we inquired. “I constantly run scared,” the great evangelist confessed. “Why, I can look in my life and see the depths of hell.” And so can we all, if we’re honest. For ever since the fall, sin has reigned, bringing every sort of base motive, falsehood and ravening wolflike desire within.

But now this!

How to Achieve Purity
of Motives

A hard-bitten American businessman watched a young and pretty Christian nurse clean a man’s gangrenous leg. The puss and odor were utterly revolting and the man exclaimed, “I wouldn’t do that for a million dollars!” The nurse looked up, met his eye, and quietly spoke, “I wouldn’t either. But I will do it for Jesus.”

Obviously there are other possible motives beside sex and money. True, the unregenerate may be pushed and pulled by a chaos of urges all cantering around money and sex. But for the regenerate, the born-again, the spirit-filled Christian, there is the fact of a new heart and a new motivation.

The Reverend Stephen Crotts is the director of the Carolina Study Center, Inc., a campus ministry, located in Chapel Hill, NC. Pastor Crotts may be reached at

About Stephen Crotts

The Reverend Stephen Crotts is pastor of Village Presbyterian Church in Charlotte Court House, VA. He is also the director of the Carolina Study Center, Inc., a campus ministry, located in Chapel Hill, NC. Pastor Crotts may be reached at


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