Blessed are the poor in spirit for they shall see the kingdom of God (Matthew 5: 3).
Whether you grew up in church or not, at some point you have heard the Beatitudes. They begin with ” Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” ( Matthew 5: 3 ). You may not know what they mean, but you have heard them.
The Beatitudes are found in the section of the Gospels known as the Sermon on the Mount. This is the first recorded sermon of Jesus. It focuses on his teachings and signifies a major change from the religious leaders of the time who preached external obedience.
Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount teaches the importance of the inner. We all know someone who follows the rules but has an unpleasant spirit. You can be ultra-religious and yet not be loving.
In contrast to the Pharisee leaders of the day, Jesus teaches the importance of character . Therefore, the Sermon on the Mount is a collection of Jesus’ teachings about having a “heart” of righteous character.
The Beatitudes begin the Sermon on the Mount as Jesus teaches that those with righteous character will be blessed.
Blessed are the poor in spirit Meaning
The Beatitudes present the beautiful character structure of Christ. There is no entrance to knowing and appropriating His riches without first going through His blessing for those who are poor in spirit .
When we stumble upon the word “poor,” we quickly associate it with material lack. But in Scripture, even in the Old Testament, poor does not necessarily mean physical poverty. It is often a technical term for those who realize that deep down they need God for everything physical and spiritual. This is what Isaiah meant when he proclaimed:
“The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me to bring good news to the poor” ( Isa. 61: 1 ).
This background makes it clear that it is the Messiah who will meet the needs of the “poor.” Simeon said of Jesus Christ in Luke 2:34 : “This child is set for the fall and resurrection of many.” What comes before getting up again? A fall, death.
What did Je-sus say? “Truly, truly, I tell you, if the grain of wheat does not fall to the ground and die, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit ”( John 12: 24). Due to our natural spiritual poverty, there must be a death of self if we are ever to be filled with Christ.
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what does it mean to be poor in spirit
Being poor in spirit is about God giving us a proper attitude towards ourselves and towards Him. We need to see ourselves carrying a debt of sin and consequently bankrupt before God. Knowing this about ourselves, we will cry out for mercy to the only one who can erase the debt and be the supply in our bankruptcy.
This is in contrast to much of what we see. The spirit of our age tells us to “express” and “believe” in ourselves. It’s about self-reliance, self-reliance, self-confidence, among other things. The countercultural truths of the Beatitudes say:
“Empty the self so that God can enter.”
When we are full of ourselves, we lose the blessing of God’s presence. If we are always full of ourselves, we are not even remember that we have a heavenly father. We do not overcome this first beatitude, if we do, we will really understand what God wants us to be.
Jesus told the people of the church in Laodicea in Revelation 3: 17–18 , “They say they are rich, they have prospered, and they don’t need anything.” “I will tell them that they are poor and therefore they must buy refined gold from the fire in order for them to be rich.” That is, rich in Him.
The fundamental stance of this beatitude is found on the tax collector in Luke 18: 9-14 . The Pharisee in this parable trusted himself and his works before God. In contrast, the tax collector said, “God, have mercy on me, a sinner!”
The promise continues: “For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but whoever humbles himself will be exalted.” If we are to enter the kingdom of heaven and be satisfied there in Christ, we must first be “poor in spirit.”
So, Jesus was not talking about money or finances, and he was not literally referring to the poor in spirit either. ” Poor in spirit” means to be humble . Someone who is “poor in spirit” has an excellent knowledge of himself and is clear that he needs God at all times.
Pride precedes the fall
Jesus teaches that pride is not only sinful, it is also harmful . Even if you are not a Christian, you have surely seen the consequences of someone’s proud behavior. Proverbs 16:18 says:
“Pride comes before destruction, and arrogant spirit before the fall.”
When we start to think that we are better than others or that we do not need them, we run into problems. There are consequences. Think of the times in your life when your pride or arrogance had repercussions.
Now consider this first beatitude. Jesus says that those who will be blessed are those who are “poor in spirit.” Unlike those in the previous proverb, these people are humble, honest, and know their need for grace.
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Self-reliance also causes falls
Likewise, our culture praises self-reliance. From a young age, children are taught to take care of themselves. While we must take care of ourselves, there is a big difference between doing what we can to take care of ourselves and believing that we are self-reliant. Self-reliance means that we believe we don’t need anyone else , least of all a Savior. Romans 12: 3 says:
“Because by the grace that has been given to me, I say to each one of you: Do not think of yourself more than you should, but think of yourself with sober judgment, according to the faith that God has distributed in each one”.
Do you know someone who thinks he is above reproach or who believes that he can do nothing wrong? When we start to overthink ourselves, we lose sight of our spiritual need. Those who are “poor in spirit” acknowledge their own shortcomings. They realize that they are sinners, that they need a savior, and that they have a need for forgiveness.
Why is false humility not the answer either
Before going on to talk about the blessing that the “poor in spirit” receive, it is important to point out one more thing that they themselves do not do. They do not show false humility and neither are they people wrapped in a self-critical sadness that walks around saying “I’m worth nothing” or “I can’t do anything.” God gives us grace. That is why the Scriptures say in James 4: 6 :
“God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble.”
Those who are “poor in spirit” are humble because they know they are sinners and they know their spiritual need. But they also have knowledge of the grace of a loving Savior. They know that they are worthy of love and grace because they are heirs of the Kingdom of God ( James 2: 5 ).
Because theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven
This first beatitude concludes with the blessing “theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” What does that mean exactly? Ultimately, it means that the Gospel belongs to them . They understand their need for God; therefore, the Lord will satisfy this need. Through their understanding of themselves and their need, their hearts are in tune with the Gospel.
Do you know someone who does not have a true knowledge of himself?
Have you met someone proud? That is why the Beatitudes are still important today.
“Blessed are the poor in spirit” is a phrase that contrasts with the advice that our culture gives us.
We are taught to be competitive, to rise to the top at all costs, and to be proud of ourselves. However, God wants something different from us.