The beatitudes are right at the beginning of what we call Jesus' Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5 – 7). A parallel passage is Luke 6: 20–49.
Jesus doesn't give us a lot of theology. He seems more interested in example, and illustration. My good friend Ron figures that is probably quite significant in itself. (Even more interesting, according to Ron is the fact that he never asked his disciples to affirm any statement of faith, or make them conform to any particular doctrinal position.)
So, this sermon must be quite important.
It must hit on the most important things that Jesus taught.
And it probably starts with a bang—the beatitudes.
As I have been mulling over these pithy and pointed projectiles of practical precepts, I realize that they were aimed (not so subtly) at the 'excessive confidence' of the Pharisees. Those guys who had it figured out so completely that they had nothing more to do than to teach everyone else. Sound like any person or institution that you have come across? Each beatitude encourages humility, an awareness of need, a lack of arrogance.
For that reason, I think these few verses have a lot to say to us, we who are trying to bring God's Good News to our world.
As an introduction to Jesus' teaching about the kingdom (the dream, revolution, mission, party, network or dance of God), they lay a foundation for everything else he as to say.
A few general things that fit each of the beatitudes:
--they all start with 'Blessed are'. A blessing is more than a good feeling, it is an impartation.
--each of the positive behaviors/attitudes/character qualities results in something specific.
--there is at least a degree of the opposite of each beatitude also being true. Those who recognize their hunger will be filled. Those who think they are full will end up hungry. The parallel passage in Luke emphasizes this with the 'Blesseds' and the 'Woes'.
--notice how each one is an affront to the person who thinks he has already arrived.