“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:3).
“Blessed” means blissful or happy, but here truly our blessedness is more than a surface emotion.
Jesus was describing the divinely bestowed well-being that belongs only to the faithful. The worldly idea is that happiness is found in the abundance of wealth and honor they can gain in this life. Blessedness is a characteristic of God, and it can be a characteristic of believers only as they share in the nature of God. There is no blessedness, no perfect contentedness and joy, except that which comes from a personal relationship to Him.
Peter puts it this way, “By which have been given to us exceedingly great and precious promises, that through these you may be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust”(1 Peter 1:4). The blessed life is represented by the true inner righteousness of those who are humble or in other words poor in spirit.
“Poor in Spirit” means the complete opposite to being self-sufficient. It means to cower or to cringe as beggars did in Jesus’ day. It means more than simply being poor, but beggarly poor. They perceive that there are no saving qualities or resources in themselves and that they can only beg or plead for mercy and grace. It speaks of the deep humility of recognizing one’s utter spiritual bankruptcy apart from God. It describes those who recognize their own hopelessness apart from divine grace.
A wonderful illustration of this is found in Luke’s gospel 18:9-14.
Vv. 13 says this “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!”
Why is Humility First
Jesus puts this beatitude first because humility is the foundation of all other graces, a basic element in becoming a Christian (Matthew 18:3-4). Pride has no part or portion in the kingdom of God, and until a person surrenders pride he can never enter the kingdom. The door into God’s kingdom is a low entry, and anyone who stands tall and proud will never go through. Until a soul is humbled, Christ can never become dear to that individual, because He is over-shadow by self.
How to Achieve Humility
To become poor in spirit does not start with us, nor does it involve putting ourselves down. It really is a state of the heart and that we are already down, (maybe because of bad relationships or bad circumstances) and humility simply recognizes the truth. Humility is not a necessary human work to make us worthy, but a necessary divine work to make us see that we are unworthy and cannot change our sinful and lost condition without God. Genuine humility is produced by the Lord as an element of the work of salvation and it is a divine command from God to humble oneself (Matthew 23:12; James 4:10; 1 Peter 5:5).
Humility requires that we turn our eyes off ourselves and look to God through the study of His Word and by surrendering ourselves for His service. Our desire should be the same as King David when he prayed to God “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit in me” (Psalm 51: 10).
The Result of Humility
Those who come to the Lord with broken hearts do not leave with broken hearts. God wants us to recognize our lowliness so that He can raise us up. James 4: 10 says “Lament, and mourn and weep! Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves in the sight of God and He will raise you up.” God wants us to recognize our own poverty so that He can make us whole in Christ. God has gladly chosen to give the kingdom to those who humbly come to Him and trust Him (Luke 12:32).
A Study from the Beatitudes (Matthew 5: 3)
by John Denman
Photo by M. E. Head