Matthew 5:3 – “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” NASB
This is a very interesting, sometimes perplexing, and complex passage. I have heard arguments from all sides regarding what it means to be ‘poor in spirit’ and most of those arguments leave me wanting. What was Jesus teaching? Was He teaching that being poor makes one happy? What is a ‘poor spirit’?
The word “blessed” in the Greek text means “happy”. That focuses on the source of that blessedness or the quarter from which that happiness comes. Here the statement is “Blessed are the poor in spirit…” Jesus, what are you talking about?
As I examine this beautiful yet troubling beatitude, I bring my mind to bear on the word “Blessed” or “Happy” and proceed from there. If something is a blessing and brings happiness which is the result of a stimulus that is a good place to begin our consideration. The stimuli that produce that state of Blessedness is being poor in spirit. The benefit or reward for that condition is ‘the Kingdom of Heaven.’ That is nothing short of incredible. Who would not want the Kingdom of Heaven to be a current and daily reality in their lives? What believer would not want God’s Kingdom to come and His will to be done on earth in the same manner and to the same degree it is done in heaven?
How is the abundance of God’s riches to be squared with poverty? It cannot be. But poverty is not the topic but being ‘poor in spirit.’ If I am poor in the natural, I have no goods. If I am poor in relationships, I am alone. If I am poor in health, I am sick. So, what does it mean to be ‘poor in spirit’?
Let me suggest a possibility and you decide if you consider it a valid consideration or explanation. I suggest that being ‘poor in spirit’ is to be ‘empty of self.’ Remember the words of John the Baptist in John 3:30? He said, concerning Jesus, “He must increase, but I must decrease.” I suggest that He cannot increase to us, until and unless we decrease to ourselves. The apostle Paul warned not to think more highly of ourselves than we ought to think in Romans 12:3.
I suggest that being ‘poor in spirit’ is a condition in which we totally rely on and trust in God. We recognize our own mortality and finiteness and focus on his immortality and infiniteness. Our hearts and minds are focused upward and outward rather than inward. If I am ‘rich’ toward who I think I am and the top priority is given to me, my needs, my wants, my ambitions, I am number one. There can only be one number one in our lives. Remember the declaration of Jesus in Matthew 6:24 that it is impossible to serve two masters at the same time.
If I am ‘poor in spirit’ I recognize my frailty, failure, sin, and unfitness. It is in that condition that I shift my focus to Him and as I look to Him, I have the immeasurable promises of the Bible to strengthen me. He has promised in 2 Corinthians 12:9 that His grace is sufficient, and His strength is made perfect when we recognize and acknowledge our weakness. He is the Almighty God and we are finite mortal created beings. He is the giver and sustainer of life we are recipients of that life not the creators of it. The ‘poor in spirit’ recognize Him and turn to Him.
I challenge you to consider Psalm 91 and Matthew 6:33 and reflect on the incredible promises of God for the one that makes Him first in their lives. That person that empties themselves of self and refuses put anything before Him is rich in Him while being poor in their own spirit. Being ‘poor in spirit’ is to recognize that it is in Him and only in Him that we live and move and have being.
If you are rich in yourself (we are not talking about possessions but attitude) you are a pauper in Him. On the other hand if you empty yourself of self and cast all your care on Him trusting Him for your everything you become possessors of His Promises and in those promises are the words of Jesus in Luke 12:32, “Fear not, little flock; for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.”
My desire is “LORD, help me to focus less on me and more on You. Help me to empty myself of self and open my heart to You. Help me to become ‘poor in spirit’ and rich in You so that I can truly be an instrument for good in this world and bring joy to Your heart.”
God bless you as you enjoy this wonderful day in Him!