Summary: Often, to say a thing is pure is to say that nothing else has been added to it, whether clean or unclean. In this sense, pure denotes something that is free of foreign elements.
An Unadulterated Heart
Text: Mt. 5:8
The Greek adjective katharos meant "clean" or "pure."
A "catharsis" is a purging or cleansing.
Katharos often meant something that had been purged.
A soiled garment that had been washed.
Corn with the chaff winnowed out.
An army purged of unacceptable soldiers.
In Mt. 5:8, it is this word that is translated "pure."
The need for a pure heart is emphasized often in the New Testament - e.g. Ac. 15:9; 1 Tim. 1:5; 2 Tim. 2:22; 1 Pt. 1:22.
We basically think of purity as cleanness, and so we take Jesus’ meaning to be that our thinking must be innocent and chaste.
But consider these definitions of "pure" in the AHD:
* Having a homogeneous or uniform composition; not mixed.
* Free from adulterants or impurities; full-strength.
* Free from foreign elements.
* Containing nothing inappropriate or extraneous.
* Of unmixed blood or ancestry.
Pure often means unmixed or unadulterated.
Cf. "the pure milk of the word" (1 Pt. 2:2).
In this passage a different Greek word, adolos, is used -- but the point is much the same.
How is this idea involved in being "pure in heart"?
I. CLEAN MINDS
To back up, it needs to be emphasized that Mt. 5:8 does call us to have wholesome, unsullied, clean minds and hearts.
We must be clean on the inside as well as the outside. Cf. Mt. 23:25-28.
If we wish to see God, we simply must discipline our hearts and keep them free of corruption and defilement - Eph. 5:3,4; Phil. 4:8.
We would do well -- in a society saturated with filth -- to sit up and take notice of the warning implied in Mt. 5:8.
II. UNMIXED MOTIVES
In addition to being clean, pure hearts are genuine or sincere.
Consider these paraphrases of Mt. 5:8:
"Blessed is the man whose motives are always entirely unmixed" (Barclay).
"Happy are the utterly sincere" (Phillips).
We must strive to obey God for reasons that are entirely the right ones, rather than letting ulterior motives creep in. Cf. Mt. 23:5-7; Phil. 1:15-17.
It is exceedingly difficult to do good with no taint of impure motive.
But we must try not to let:
Our love of God be tinged with love of the praise of men.
Our selfless impulses be alloyed with selfish ambition.
Our desire to give be diluted with a desire to get.
III. SINGLE-MINDED COMMITMENT
Often, to say a thing is pure is to say that nothing else has been added to it, whether clean or unclean.
In this sense, pure denotes something that is free of foreign elements.
With no admixture or dilution, a pure thing is what it is, exactly and fully.
Pure aluminum has no trace of alloy, pure acid is full-strength acid, etc.
When we talk of purity in this way, we mean that a thing is "exclusive" -- it excludes everything else in order to be one thing!
Looking at it in this way, we can say that being "pure in heart" means being single-minded in our devotion to God.
We must be able to "focus in" and serve God with a wholehearted commitment that has no competition. Cf. 2 Cor. 10:5.
"You shall have no other gods before Me" (Exo. 20:3).
"Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one! You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your might" (Deut. 6:4,5). Cf. Mt. 22:35-38.