Blessed are the Poor in Spirit
Matthew 5:1–3 “Seeing the crowds, he went up on the mountain, and when he sat down, his disciples came to him. 2 And he opened his mouth and taught them, saying: 3 “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”
Jesus came to be the Savior. Beware of placing our Lord as Teacher first and Savior second. We must know Him first as Savior before His teaching can have any meaning for us. If you take Jesus’ teaching seriously apart from having His indwelling life the only thing you can experience is despair and failure. Yes, He was a great teacher but first He must be the great transformer. He makes us what we are to be and then tells us in His teaching, and through the example of His life, what it looks like. To attempt to live the Sermon on the Mount apart from His indwelling life is futility. Jesus died for us to live in and through us.
Blessed are the poor in spirit, To be blessed is to receive God’s grace. The Latin word for blessed is, “beatus,” from which we get the word beatitude. This was a powerful word to those who heard Jesus that day. To them it meant “divine joy.” Very many confuse blessings with happiness, however, they are completely unrelated. To be blessed is to have the grace of God poured out on your life but not necessarily happiness. One of the blessings of God is that we suffer with Him and that may have nothing to do with happiness. Happiness centered in our circumstances and, quite often, are not good at all. Sin is always offering us temporary happiness which always leads to unhappiness. However, God offers us the way of blessings. We are blessed because of Who has us. It isn’t about what we have but who we have and who has us. Jesus was turning their world upside down. The Jews were taught from the earliest age that the sign of God’s blessing was material prosperity in every shape and form. Many in America have seemingly bought into the same lie. We get so familiar to the sayings of Jesus that they slip over us unheeded.
Blessed are the poor in spirit. The beatitudes are not about what we are to do but the blessings of those who have the kingdom of Heaven in them. There is no one in the kingdom of Heaven who is not poor in spirit. To be poor in spirit is to be humble. To be poor in spirit means to be humble and to have a correct estimate of oneself. Poor in spirit is the opposite of the world’s attitudes of self-praise and self-assertion. It is honesty with ourselves. Pride is the thing that hinders us. A person can be so caught up in the material things of this world that he can miss God’s spiritual benefits. He who walks open eyed through a wheat field notices that the drooping ears that are heavy with grain; the stems that hold their heads erect are the empty and worthless ones.
Being poor in spirit is to be spiritually bankrupt before God. This happens only when we get a right view of ourselves under a right view of God. To be poor in spirit is to recognize the impossibility of being right with God through any human effort. We must become poor in spirit before we can become rich in God’s spiritual blessings. C.S. Lewis said, “Whenever we find that our religious life is making us feel that we are good and therefore, better than someone else, you may be sure we are being acted on – not by God, but by the devil. The real test of being in the presence of God is whether you either forget about yourself altogether or see yourself as a small, dirty object. It is better to forget about yourself altogether.
To be poor is to be weak and helpless. Poverty of spirit isn’t related to our finances or having a depressed temperament. The poor in spirit are those who recognize they have no righteousness of their own and need a savior. All we can do is cry for mercy and depend on the Lord. It is the spirit of the prodigal son. He left his father proudly, self-assured in his share of the inheritance. In humility of spirit, emptied of all his pride, he came home to his father, empty handed, no longer full of himself. It is the opposite of the self-righteous brother who didn’t see his own poverty but blind by self-righteousness. We are bankrupt, debtors in his court. If you would be rich and possess a kingdom you must first lose all, including yourself and your self-centeredness and become poor in spirit.
Blessed are the poor in spirit. This is the foundation for everything else. It is ultimately a man’s attitude towards himself. The poor in spirit reject the self-life. The world’s emphasis is on self-reliance, self-confidence and self-expression. It is all about expressing yourself, believing in yourself, realizing the powers that are innate in yourself; self-confidence, assurance, self-reliance. Self comes out ok with man compared to man. We only become poor in spirit when we come before the presence of God. And if one feels anything in the presence of God save an utter poverty of spirit, it ultimately means that you have never faced Him. The poor in spirit lose all self-confidence. Gideon, when the Lord sent an angel to him to tell him the great thing he was to do, said, “No, no, this is impossible; I belong to the lowest tribe and to the lowest family in the tribe.” Moses, who felt deeply unworthy of the task that was laid upon him was conscious of his insufficiency and inadequacy. David, said, “Lord, who am I that thou should come to me?” Isaiah, said, “Lord, I am a man of unclean lips.” Peter said, “Depart from me; for I am a sinful man, O Lord.”
The poor in spirit don’t defend themselves. When Job got a picture of God he quit defending himself and repented. He spent 40 chapters defending himself but when he came face to face with God all he could do was shut his mouth in repentance. There is a tremendous awareness of our utter nothingness as we come face to face with God. Paul came to the place where he regarded all his self-righteousness as dung. Isaiah said in the presence of God’s holiness, “Woe is me!” That is poverty of spirit.
The poor in spirit don’t look to self but God. How do we become ‘poor in spirit’? The answer is that you do not look at yourself or begin trying to do things to yourself. Self is always the wrong starting point; everything must always begin with God. The way to be ‘poor in spirit’ is to look at God. Look again at Him, and then you will have nothing to do to yourself. It will be done. You cannot truly look at Him without feeling your absolute poverty and emptiness. Nothing in my hand I bring, simply to the cross I cling.
For theirs is the kingdom of heaven. In the kingdom of Heaven, what we believe and how we live are joined together. Interestingly, the first and last of the beatitudes has the same promise. Our Lord starts and ends with it because the first thing we, as believers must realize is that we belong to a different kingdom. We are in this world but not a part of it. We are among those other people, yes; but we are citizens of another kingdom. There is a wonderful time coming where God’s perfect reign will take place on earth. The true disciple of Jesus will have a place with the Lord. The Jews were looking for a political kingdom. The Jews had a false, materialistic conception of the kingdom. They thought the Messiah was one who was coming to give them political emancipation. They always thought of the kingdom in an external sense. The kingdom is primarily something ‘within you’. It is that which governs and controls the heart and mind and outlook.
The kingdom is the rule or reign of God. It means the reign of God. To be a disciple is to allow God to reign! I’m troubled that there are so many professing believers who have absolutely no intention of allowing God to reign in their lives. Whenever Christ is enthroned as King, the kingdom of God is come in, as much as He reigns in the lives of those who receive Him. One day He will rule and reign the universe. Today He asks you to allow Him to reign over your life. His reign begins with our being poor in spirit but confident in Christ.
This Sunday we’ll be starting a new series from the Book of Ruth. I encourage you to read through and become familiar with the passage. Have an incredible week as you live from the Source! He loves you, lives in you and delights to express Himself through you!
You are loved!