The Beatitudes from the Sermon on the Mount and the Nicomachean Ethics both depict happiness. Happiness is the mental or emotional state of well-being and contentment. These works explain how to attain happiness. Aristotle’s view of happiness is comparable with happiness describe in the Bible because both versions are depicted as something that can be worked for. However, they are different because the Beatitudes provide a version of happiness that is open for everyone to experience.
The Sermon on the Mount is a collection of Jesus’ teachings at the mountain top, recorded in the Gospel of Matthew in the New Testament, in Chapters 5-7. Jesus discusses various topics to teach the people how to live pleasing to Him, free from hypocrisy, full of love and grace, and abundant in wisdom and discernment.
In this sermon, Jesus declares the beatitudes before the people. Matthew then tells the people of Jesus’ parable of the salt and light. The meaning of the parable is Christians we are called to be an example and have an impact on the world. Jesus informs the people, He has come to fulfill the law, and they must follow the commandments. Just so, your light must shine before others, that they may see your good works (Matthew 5:16). The people were also taught to not be angry, because that is similar to killing, it is a negative emotion that can result in regrettable actions. He also encourages them to not commit adultery or look at another human being with lust. Furthermore, divorce is adultery and anyone who marries a divorced person commits adultery. He declares false oaths, retaliation and swearing by earth or heaven as sin. The last topic discussed in Matthew chapter 5 was love of enemies. Jesus wants His people to love one another whether they consider the person good or bad and whether or not they have a good relationship. These topics help to achieve happiness by giving guidelines to follow. Obedience to these rules will create a stronger relationship with God, and He in turn will pour out his reward of eternal life in Heaven. According to Jesus happiness comes from a relationship with him and obtaining His reward.
In Matthew, Chapter 6 Jesus begins by discussing almsgiving. Almsgiving is doing something without looking for the recognition or praise from it. Next He teaches them that they ought to pray with sincerity and not with the goal of being seen. Jesus teaches them the prayer called The Lord’s Prayer.
Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as is in heaven. Give us today our daily bread; and forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors; and do not subject us to the final test, but deliver us from the evil one. (Matthew 6:9-13)
This prayer helps build relation with Christ, to ultimately enter into Heaven. After the prayer Jesus teaches about fasting. Christians should in terms of appearance not neglect themselves, so it appears to others they have fasted but instead have it be that only the Father knows they are fasting. Jesus also lets the people know they should not be invested in materialism but rather wait to receive treasures from above. Jesus also taught the people they should look upon things that are good to keep their soul holy. Furthermore, Christians should have a dependence on God and serve him only not the pleasures of this world according to Christ. In Chapter 6, Jesus expounds on principles that join Christians into communion with Him, which ultimately is true happiness.
In Matthew Chapter 7, Jesus tells the people at the mountaintop that they need to stop judging others because as they judge one another God will judge them. Also, He inspired them to give what is holy unto the Lord, because he will answer all of their prayers and requests. Jesus give the golden rule: Do to others whatever you would have them do to you (Matthew 7:12). In other words, Christians must treat others the way they want to be treated and follow the path that leads to God. Jesus warns the people of false prophets and ends the sermon on the mount by telling the people what a true disciple looks like. Jesus does not want the people to listen to false prophets because they will misguide them on how to achieve true happiness. False prophets put the focus on themselves rather than pleasing God and creating a relationship with Him.
As stated previously, in the sermon on the mount, Jesus tells the people the Beatitudes. The Beatitudes present virtues that lead to a reward of Heaven, provide a way of life that brings salvation, and bring peace in the midst of trials and tribulations on this earth. The beatitudes go against the general behaviors and thinking of humans, so when completed Jesus offers the reward of eternal life in Heaven. The beatitudes are:
Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are they who mourn, for they shall be comforted. Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth. Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied. Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy. Blessed are the pure of heart, for they shall see God. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called children of God. Blessed are they who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
The beatitudes call Those who completely rely and trust on God, will go to heaven. Comfort will be brought to those who mourn. The meek will receive spiritual blessings from God. Those who seek God will be filled by Him. People who act with mercy with receive mercy. Christians who are blameless will see God. Those who create peace God will call them his children. Those who are judged for following God will enter into heaven.
Each beatitude beings with blessed which is a term meaning happy. Jesus is telling the people happy is anyone who follows the beatitudes. This happiness comes from God He created Christians to find total and complete joy within Him and following His will. Happiness comes from giving their lives over to Christ where he removes all emptiness, brokenness, and sins. Christians live a holy life by focusing on His will, which gives them the ability to love God completely and love their neighbor as God loves them. We get happiness through the reward of heaven. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward will be great in heaven (Matthew 5:12).
In class we also read Nicomachean Ethics by Aristotle. Aristotle’s goal of the book was to determine how best to achieve (eudamonia) happiness. All human activities aim at some end that we consider good with most activities being a means to a higher end. The highest human good, then, is that activity that is an end in itself. That good being happiness we aim at for its own sake, not because happiness helps us realize some other end.
Living out the virtues gives us happiness. Virtue is a frame of mind rather than a task. Someone who is virtuous behaves correctly naturally and finds enjoyment in it. Aristotle discusses the various moral virtues and their corresponding vices. Courage is confidence in the face of fear. Liberality and magnificence consist of giving away varying amounts of money in appropriate and tasteful ways. Temperance includes not giving in too easily to the pleasures of physical sensation. Patience is the appropriate response to anger.
Justice incudes distribution of wealth or honors among a group of people being given according to merit and exchanges between two or more people aiming at balance and equality. Human nature avoids treating oneself unjustly and suffering injustice willingly. Prudence is the intellectual virtue that helps us reason properly about ethical matters. Incontinence is a peculiar form of badness. Unlike vice, incontinence does not involve willing bad behavior. Rather, it consists of knowing what is good but lacking the self-control to do good. Incontinence is not as bad as vice, since it is partially involuntary.
Aristotle then explains different forms of friendships. The three kinds of friendship are: friendship based on utility, friendship based on pleasure, and friendship based on goodness of character. The first two kinds of friendship are based on superficial qualities, so these friendships are not generally long lasting. Friendship based on goodness of character is the best kind of friendship, because these friends love one another for who they are and not for what they stand to gain from one another. Friendship generally exists between equals, though there are cases, like the father-son relationship, which rely on unequal exchanges.
Ideally, our feelings for our friends should reflect our feelings for ourselves. Self-love is more important than friendship, since only people who treat themselves with appropriate care and respect can achieve proper virtue and happiness. Though a happy person is theoretically self-sufficient, friendship is an important and essential aspect of the good life. Pleasure accompanies and perfects our activities. A good person will feel pleasure in doing good things. The highest good of all is rational contemplation. A life that consists exclusively of contemplation is obviously impossible, but we should aim to approximate this ideal as closely as possible. The practical sciences, then, help us find the right path toward this highest good and help us deal with the practical matters of everyday life that inevitably occupy a great deal of our time and attention. Aristotle ends the Nicomachean Ethics discussing how to obtain eudaimonia. Eudaimonia is specifically an objective sense of contentment. Through eudaimonia Aristotle realizes the best life for human beings is one grounded in rational activity.
Aristotle’s view on happiness and the beatitudes depiction is comparable. In both we see a happiness built from following a certain set of rules. Jesus wants Christians to follow the beatitudes to receive happiness from Him, Aristotle believes happiness comes from practicing the virtues. Also, the happiness is self-dependent it is not automatically given but must be worked for.
The Aristotle pointed out that genuine happiness is complete and sufficient unto itself. However, Aristotle does not believe happiness was possible for everyone. Jesus came to save us so that everyone could receive happiness. Jesus’ happiness is accessible for everyone while Aristotle’s natural happiness is the result of emotional stability brought about by the virtues.
It also throws light on various aspects of their lives, including the issues of anger, fasting, forgiveness, divorce, faith, prayer, justice, care for the needy, handling the religious law, lust, judging other people, and salvation, and mercy.
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