There are basically two rival kingdoms in this life, those who follow Jesus and those who don’t. Those who follow Jesus have their values shaped by Jesus. One of the things He said about this was: “ ‘Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God’ ” (Matt. 5:8).1
The Hebrew word for “pure” (on which Jesus builds this saying) is used to describe things like undiluted liquids, metals without alloys, an army without defectors, grain that has been sifted and cleansed of chaff, a person free of debt, and a sacrificial animal without blemish or defect. In other words, the word “pure” means unmixed, unadulterated, undistorted, undivided, completely focused.
What’s Jesus’ point? Soren Kierkegaard, the Danish theologian and statesman, defined it this way: “Purity of heart is to will one thing.” In the context of this saying by Jesus, that one thing is a Person. It is God.
Here’s the point: you see only what you have in your heart. So if you want to see God, you have to have God in your heart and mind. Only those with a single-minded focus and passion to know God will be able to connect with God.
The pure in heart. Jesus was probably quoting from the Old Testament when He spoke those words. The book of songs, called Psalms, says, “Who may ascend into the hill of the Lord? Or who may stand in His holy place?” (Ps. 24:3, 4). In other words, these questions are: Who is able to have access to God’s presence? Who will really see God?
The passage continues: “He who has clean hands and a pure heart” (v. 4). Sounds like a saying of Jesus. But what does it mean? Is this suggesting that only those who are sinless, who have attained to a perfect moral purity, who never make mistakes, will be able to see God?
Notice how the parallelism in this verse defines that phrase: “those . . . who have not worshiped idols, who have not made promises in the name of a false god.”
What’s the point? A pure heart is one that is devoted singularly to God. It’s one that has no idols or competitors to God that are set up to take God’s place. It’s a heart that refuses to allow distractions to block a view of God. Seeking God is the number one priority and passion.
And what is the promise in this Psalm for the pure heart? “He shall receive blessing from the Lord, and righteousness from the God of his salvation” (v. 5). In other words, they have the privilege of enjoying intimacy with God, a right and good relationship with God. They see God for who He truly is because nothing is allowed to distract their view. And therefore, they have the joy of enjoying God. Their spirituality is alive and well and healthy and growing.
You won’t see birds in your yard until you have birds in your heart. You see only what you have in your heart. Only the single-minded focus for God will facilitate an experience with God.
Distracted attention; a lack of focus; a double-mindedness. In other words, his heart isn’t “pure,” it’s not single-minded, focused, and undivided in its passion for spiritual things. And since we see only what’s in our hearts, no wonder it’s so often difficult to see God or to pay attention to our spirituality, the deepest core values of our lives, in the midst of day-to-day living.2