The Poor in Spirit

The Sermon on the Mount (Matthew chapters 5-7) is one of Jesus’ most famous teaching moments. Jesus takes the time here to talk about the character and conduct of those who follow Him as their Lord and Savior.

Following Jesus is no easy task. Jesus Himself even tells us to count the cost before following Him because we may lose family members, friends, jobs, homes, and even our lives for following Him.

Over the course of a few blog posts, we are going to look at the beginning of this famous sermon and see where blessings come from. Jesus references nine different perspectives of people whom God blesses in Matthew 5:3-11. These character and conduct traits are most often called “The Beattitudes.

Jesus begins talking about each perspectives with an pronouncement of “God blesses” (or “blessed are the” ESV). This kind of “blessed” is talking about “happiness because of divine favor.” This is not to say that some Christians are better than other Christians; it is not that one person has more value in the eyes of God than another. That is not true. What it is saying is that those who diligently follow Jesus Christ and live out the character and conduct He describes will experience the positive results of that kind of life, which is blessing from God (not monetary or necessarily physical, but certainly spiritual and emotional). 

For the purpose of this blogging series, we will talk about these as: timeless principles.

 

“God blesses those who are poor and realize their need for him, for the Kingdom of Heaven is theirs” (Matthew 5:3, NLT).

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:3, ESV).

 

The description of this kind of person, I’ll admit, is slightly elusive at first. What does it mean to be poor in spirit? What does that look like? The New Living Translation (NLT) is helpful in bringing more clarity with the language of those who are poor and realize their need for him. 

A person who is poor in spirit understands his or her natural unworthiness to stand in God’s presence. This is a person who understands the weight of sin, understands his or her position before God as guilty, and is dependent upon God for His mercy and grace for salvation.

It’s natural and easy to rely on yourself. It’s almost culturally accepted that if you are a pretty good person, with your obvious struggles in certain areas, then you’re all good. It’s widely accepted that “me and God are good” because there’s no overwhelming, horrible sins (like murder or maybe adultery) in one’s life. But, the poor in spirit recognize the true reality that no amount of good behavior, no amount of positive actions, no level of good deeds can earn salvation or put one in right standing before God.

The poor in spirit really describes someone who has repented of his or her sins (Matthew 3:2 and 4:17), turned from the old self, and become new in Jesus Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17). This person has been able to put down pride, arrogance, and self-confidence and humbly rely on God for strength, power, confidence, guidance, and purpose. This person responds to God as relevant and necessary for daily living.

What is the blessing of the poor in spirit? Jesus says, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. This attitude of a person poor in spirit should produce joy in the realization that based on the Person and Work of Jesus Christ (not good work or merit of the individual), he or she is secure in a relationship with God and will enter the kingdom of heaven.

 

As you read about this person who is poor in spirit, where does your own character and conduct line up? Do you recognize your need for a Savior? Are you pursuing your own way? Are you living for yourself? Have you humbly repented of sin?

Do you have a relationship with Jesus Christ? If not, what is holding you back? Ask God to reveal Himself to you.

If you do have a relationship with Jesus Christ, are you maintaining a “poor in spirit” attitude today? Even in the middle of wealthy America, compared to other nations, where we have all we need and then some, are you daily depending on God? Being poor in spirit is not a natural attitude or disposition, it is a deliberate, daily, choice and a discipline to be cultivated.

What is one step you can take today to live with the attitude of being “poor in spirit”?

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