“And seeing the multitudes, He went up on a mountain, and when He was seated His disciples came to Him. Then He opened His mouth and taught them, saying: ‘Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted. Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be filled. Blessed are they merciful, for they shall obtain mercy. Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the sons of God. Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness sake, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven.’”
Having taught for many years, I have heard a lot of unrelated (dumb) questions. Listen to these I found many years ago about Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount.
And Simon Peter said, “Are we supposed to remember this?” Andrew said, “Do we have to write this down?” James said, “Will we have a test on this?” Judas Iscariot said, “What does this have to do with real life?” Thomas said, “How many can I miss and still pass?” Bartholomew said, “Do we have to turn this in?” Phillip said, “I don't have any paper.” John said, “The other disciples didn't have to learn this.” Matthew said, “May I go to the bathroom?” Simon said, “Can I borrow a pencil?” Judas said, “How much credit do I get for this?” James the Less said, “Now, what was that again?” Then one of the Pharisees, who stood nearby, asked Jesus to see His lesson plan and inquired of Him, “What’s Your main point and Your objective in this lesson?” And Jesus wept!
The Greek word for “Beatitude” is makarios. It means “blessed.” It is a word which means happy or fortunate. Synonyms: blessedness, benediction, grace, bliss, ecstasy, exaltation, supreme happiness, and divine joy. It describes the state of one who has become a partaker of God; experiencing the fullness of God.
In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus gives us 9 “blessings” as we experience the fullness of God
Matthew 5:3a: “Blessed are the poor in spirit…”
There is order in the Beatitudes, they are not haphazard, so it is no accident that this one is first. All others hinge on this one. One cannot enter the kingdom without being “poor in spirit.” This first Beatitude is a fundamental characteristic of a child of God. All other characteristics are a direct result of this one. Being “poor in Spirit” is an emptying, while all others relate to filling.
Obviously we can’t do this for ourselves, there are heights to be scaled, is a mountain to be climbed. Humans are not capable of climbing these heights.
The believer is admonished to walk, talk, live, and love as Christ did. “Imitate me, just as I also imitate Christ” (1 Corinthians 11:1).
We are told to “Abstain from all appearance of evil” (1 Thessalonians 5:22); to “love our enemy” (Matthew 5:44); “grow in grace” (2 Peter 3:18); worry about nothing (Philippians 4:6); “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18); deny ourselves, forsake all, take up our cross and follow Jesus (Luke 14); set our affections on things above (Colossians 3:2); to be of “good comfort, one mind, and live in peace” (2 Corinthians 13:11); give sacrificially, but cheerfully. And finally to be willing to die for Christ, “For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it” (Luke 9:24).
In other words this kind of life is simply living out the Beatitudes, and the truth is, I can do none of these things, but Christ in me can! “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13).
“Blessed are the poor in spirit,” This is where the rubber meets the road, “You’re blessed when you’re at the end of your rope. With less of you there is more of God and his rule” (Matthew 5:3 MSG). This is where we see the absolute difference between the Christian and the non-Christian.
The attitude of being “poor in spirit” is despised by the world. There is not greater antithesis to the worldly spirit than this. The controlling attitude of this world is self-reliance, self-assurance, self-expression, self-confidence, and self-image. The world says, “believe in yourself, pull yourself up by your own bootstraps, you can do it if you think positively.” The world says, “I’m OK, you’re OK,” God says, “I’m not OK, you’re not OK,” but Jesus says, “that’s OK!”
The world condemns the words in Amazing grace, saying no one should be called a “wretch.”
“Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound,
That saved a wretch like me....”
If you grew up in church, you may have sung a hymn whose original lyrics have fallen out of favor. In fact, they are so politically incorrect that some hymnbooks have changed them. The hymn is, “Alas! And Did My Savior Bleed?” written by Isaac Watts, the old lyrics are:
“Alas! And did my Savior bleed? And did my Sovereign die?
Would He devote that Sacred Head for such a worm as I?”
Later versions have changed the lyrics “for such a worm as I” to “for sinners such as I?” Because nobody in this day and age of promoting self esteem and positive self images really gets off on being called a worm.
Listen to the following resume’, I wonder who would hire this man?
“I am little and insignificant, less than the least of all people. I am a servant to everyone. I know I’m no good, and nothing about me is good. No matter how hard I try, I never seem to be able to do the right thing. I don’t get along well with people. I’ve been beaten, stoned and run out of town several times. I am weak, I suffer with a chronic physical or psychological ailment, that will not be healed. I beat on my own body a lot. I am untrained in speech, I don’t seem to be very persuasive, and when I do speak, I speak with fear and trembling. I do not consider myself to be very wise. Indeed, I am a wretched man. In my past I have been very intolerant of any who disagree with me. But I did make tents for a living one time in my life.” –The Apostle Paul
But Paul was a brilliant, educated man but he chose to be “poor in spirit.” This first Beatitude is not about people confronting one another, this about people coming face to face with an awesome, almighty God. What was the prophet Isaiah’s attitude when facing God? “Woe is me.” He actually pronounced a curse upon himself when He comes in contact with the living God. When he saw God, he saw himself as a sinner.
“To be poor in spirit is to recognize your utter spiritual bankruptcy before God. It is understanding that you have absolutely nothing of worth to offer God. Being poor in spirit is admitting that, because of your sin, you are completely destitute spiritually and can do nothing to deliver yourself from your dire situation. Jesus is saying that, no matter your status in life, you must recognize your spiritual poverty before you can come to God in faith to receive the salvation He offers.”–gotquestions.org
“Poor in spirit” means that you feel you have no moral riches and are in need. The Greek word is ptochos. Its root means “to crouch” which when applied to the poor, speaks of either the physical or mental state, as of “crouching”, as in a state of weakness. “Poor” in this verse means 'reduced to being a beggar.
“To be poor in spirit is to have a humble opinion of ourselves; to be sensible that we are sinners, and have no righteousness of our own…” –Barnes
“Poverty of spirit is the opposite of pride, self-righteousness, and self-conceit; the spirit of the publican rather than of the Pharisee…” –J.R. Dummelow)
“The man who is poor in spirit is the man who has realized that things mean nothing, and that God means everything.” –William Barclay
Pride was the first sin:
Lucifer, Isaiah 14:13,14, “How you are fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! How you are cut down to the ground, you who weakened the nations! For you have said in your heart: ‘I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God; I will also sit on the mount of the congregation on the farthest sides of the north; I will ascend above the heights of the clouds, I will be like the Most High.’”
Proverbs 11:2, “When pride comes, then comes shame; but with the humble is wisdom.”
Proverbs 16:5, “Everyone proud in heart is an abomination to the Lord; though they join forces, none will go unpunished.”
Proverbs 16:18, “Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall.”
Psalm 101:5, “The one who has a haughty look and a proud heart, him I will not endure.”
Psalm 138:6, “Though the Lord is on high, yet He regards the lowly; but the proud He knows from afar.”
Jeremiah 50:31, “’Behold, I am against you, O most haughty one!’ says the Lord God of hosts; ‘For your day has come, the time that I will punish you.’”
James 4:6, “But He gives more grace. Therefore He says: ‘God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.”
1 John 2:16, “For all that is in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—is not of the Father but is of the world.”
Humility is always the virtue of the righteous…Pride is always the mentality of the unrighteous!
This is not describing those who are shy, retiring, weak or lacking in courage. Just remember Jesus in the Temple, “Jesus entered the Temple and began to drive out all the people buying and selling animals for sacrifice. He knocked over the tables of the money changers and the chairs of those selling doves” (Matthew 21:12 NLT).
This is not describing those who glory in their humility. Those who brag, “I’m a nobody, I’m not much good.” And they talk about how humble they are. Someone ahs suggested that they write books entitled: “Humility and how I attained it.” “Lord, it’s me the one you’ve heard so much about.”
The Bible gives us many examples of humility. “For thus says the High and Lofty one who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy: ‘I dwell in the high and holy place, with him who has a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones” (Isaiah 57:15).
The spirit of Moses. “O my Lord, I am not eloquent, neither before nor since You have spoken to Your servant; but I am slow of speech and slow of tongue.” (Exodus 4:10-16).
The spirit of Abraham. “Then Abraham answered and said, “Indeed now, I who am but dust and ashes have taken it upon myself to speak to the Lord” (Genesis 18:27).
The spirit of Gideon. God calls him a “mighty man of valor,” he responds with “O my Lord, how can I save Israel? Indeed my clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my father’s house.” (Judges 6:11-15).
The spirit of David. “Then King David went in and sat before the Lord; and he said: “Who am I, O Lord God? And what is my house, that You have brought me this far?” (2 Samuel 7:18).
The spirit of Isaiah. “Woe is me, for I am undone! because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts” (Isaiah 6:5).
The spirit of Peter. “When Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord!” (Luke 5:8).
The spirit of Paul. “I was with you in weakness, in fear, and in much trembling. And my speech and my preaching were not with persuasive words of human wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, that your faith should not be in the wisdom of men but in the power of God” (1 Corinthians 2:3-5).
So I conclude that “poor in spirit” is a complete absence of pride, self-assurance and self-reliance, a constant consciousness that God is everything. When you really feel like hot stuff, just read Isaiah 51:1, “Look to the rock from which you were hewn, and to the hole of the pit from which you were dug.”
The “poor in spirit” are those who cast themselves on God's grace. We personally acknowledge our spiritual bankruptcy before God. It is the tax collector in the temple, beating his breast and saying, “God, be merciful to me, a sinner” (Luke 18:9-14). It is an honest confession that we are sinful and utterly without moral virtues needed to please God. It is the opposite of arrogance. In its deepest form, it acknowledges our desperate need for God. Jesus is declaring that it is a blessing to recognize our need to be filled by God’s grace.
The world says:
Blessed are the strong, for they shall rule the earth.
Blessed are the mighty, for they shall rise to power.
Blessed are the rich, for they shall inherit the earth.
Blessed are the influential, for they shall be favored.
Blessed are the popular, for they shall be loved.
Blessed are the gifted, for they shall be followed.
Blessed are the beautiful, for they shall be admired.
Jesus says, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”
“Don’t think you are better than you really are. Be honest in your evaluation of yourselves, measuring yourselves by the faith God has given us” (Romans 12:3 NLT).
Verse 3b: “…for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven.”
The “Kingdom of Heaven” belongs to the “poor in spirit,” because they don’t deserve it, God gives it to them as a free gift! They are heirs of the “kingdom of heaven”, which is a kingdom of grace here and now and a kingdom of glory and grace in the hereafter.
It has been well said that the only kingdom that will prevail in this world is the kingdom that is not of this world! Amen!
“The ‘kingdom of heaven’ is the rule of God through Christ. It is present wherever wills bow to Him. It is future, as to complete realization, in the heaven from which it comes, and to which, like its King, it belongs even while on earth. Obviously, its subjects can only be those who feel their dependence, and in poverty of spirit have cast off self-will and self-reliance. ‘Theirs is the kingdom’ does not mean ‘they shall rule,’ but ‘of them shall be its subjects.’ True, they shall rule in the perfected form of it; but the first, and in a real sense the only, blessedness is to obey God; and that blessedness can only come when we have learned poverty of spirit, because we see ourselves as in need of all things.”–Alexander Maclaren
Is there a difference between the ”Kingdom of God” and “Kingdom of Heaven?” The phrase “kingdom of God” occurs 68 times in 10 different New Testament books, while “kingdom of heaven” occurs only 32 times, and only in the Gospel of Matthew. Based on Matthew’s exclusive use of the phrase and the Jewish nature of his Gospel, some interpreters have concluded that Matthew was writing concerning the millennial kingdom while the other New Testament authors were referring to the universal kingdom. However, a closer study of the use of the phrase reveals that this interpretation is in error. It is clear that both phrases are referring to the same thing.
For example, speaking to the rich young ruler, Christ uses “kingdom of heaven” and “kingdom of God” interchangeably. “Then Jesus said to his disciples, ‘I tell you the truth, it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven’” (Matthew 19:23). In the very next verse, Christ proclaims, “Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God” (verse 24). Jesus makes no distinction between the two terms but seems to consider them synonymous.
Mark and Luke used “kingdom of God” where Matthew used “kingdom of heaven” frequently in parallel accounts of the same parable Compare Matthew 11:11-12 with Luke 7:28; Matthew 13:11with Mark 4:11 and Luke 8:10; Matthew 13:24 with Mark 4:26; Matthew 13:31 with Mark 4:30 and Luke 13:18; Matthew 13:33 with Luke 13:20; Matthew 18:3 with Mark 10:14 and Luke 18:16; and Matthew 22:2 with Luke 13:29. In each instance, Matthew used the phrase “kingdom of heaven” while Mark and/or Luke used “kingdom of God.” Clearly, the two phrases refer to the same thing. –Edited from gotquestions.org
Christ gives us an illustration of what it means to be poor in spirit in Luke 18. Jesus said that one day two men came to the temple to pray. One man, a self-righteous Pharisee, feeling good about himself, prayed like this: “God, I thank You that I am not like other men—extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I possess” (Verse 12). “And the tax collector, standing afar off, would not so much as raise his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me a sinner!” (Verse 13).
Which man’s prayer did God hear? The religious Pharisee? Oh no, because he wasn’t praying, he was giving God his resume. Jesus said that God heard the tax collector, because his words came from a broken heart, poverty of spirit. “I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other…” Then Jesus gave the moral of this parable, “…for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted” (Verse 14).
One man was rich with pride, the other poor in spirit. One man thought highly of himself, the other felt his shortcomings. One man impressed with his own accomplishments, the other depressed by his sin. One man boasted, the other man begged. One man recommended himself to God, the other man pleaded for God’s mercy.
One man was saved, the other lost. Only it wasn’t the “good” man who was saved. He ended up lost. And the “bad” man? He ended up saved.
Unless otherwise noted, the New King James Version of the Bible was used. Also The New Living Translation (NLT); The New American Standard Bible (NASB); The Message (MSG); The New Century Version (NCV); The Amplified Bible (AMP); The King James Version (KJV), The New Life Version (NLV); English Standard Version (ESV); J.B. Phillips New Testament; Easy to Read Version (ERV); Common English bible (CEB); NET Bible (NET) and The Living Bible (TLB). Contemporary English Version (CEV).
No one has ever come to Christ for salvation without poverty of spirit. To become a child of God one must first admit that they can do nothing to secure their salvation. It is an admission that I am a sinner “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23); and with an understanding that “The wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23). Christ begins with this Beatitude, and we must begin here if ever we be saved. Poverty of spirit is the foundation stone on which God lays the superstructure of entering the “Kingdom of heaven.”
‘Unless otherwise noted, the New King James Version of the Bible was used. Also The New Living Translation (NLT); The New American Standard Bible (NASB); The Message (MSG); The New Century Version (NCV); The Amplified Bible (AMP); The King James Version (KJV), The New Life Version (NLV); English Standard Version (ESV); J.B. Phillips New Testament; Easy to Read Version (ERV); Common English bible (CEB); NET Bible (NET) and The Living Bible (TLB). Contemporary English Version (CEV).