Blessed Are The Poor In Spirit
The introduction to the Sermon on the Mount that we find in Matthew 5 is often referred to as the “Beatitudes.” It was preached by Jesus Christ and heard by those who were present, and many still today.
The Beatitudes are a great contrast to the world’s idea of “blessedness” and happiness. It is not surprising that it does not make sense to the carnal mind and almost seems contradictory to it. “For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God” (1 Cor. 1:18).
The word “blessed” which Jesus used in this account comes from a Greek word makarios, which means to be happy or blissful. It also means self-contained happiness—regardless of what is happening to us externally, we can be truly happy internally.
In Matthew 5:3 (the first of the Beatitudes), Jesus says, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”
In order to understand this verse, we must understand the meaning of “poor.” When we think of being poor, we might often think of someone who does not have much, but still has something. Maybe an old house, old vehicle, or food to eat, but barely able to pay for it. This person is poor, but they still have something. The “poor” Jesus refers to are less than that. They have nothing of their own. They are dependent on someone else.
In Luke 16:19-25, the passage is about the rich man and Lazarus. Lazarus was a poor man. He was so poor and full of sores that he was looking for crumbs to fall from the rich man’s table. He did not expect loaves or slices of bread; he just hoped for the crumbs. That is poor! He had absolutely nothing—he was a beggar.
So, what is Jesus saying in the first beatitude? Basically, He is saying that we cannot be happy if we do not see ourselves as spiritual beggars, out in the streets and having nothing. When we honestly believe that we are spiritually poor, we will come to God for help—even for His crumbs. We will come for forgiveness of our sins.
One who recognizes their physical poverty usually tries to take the necessary steps to escape poverty. They might seek advice, get a job (or a better paying one), slow down spending, or pay off debts. In other words, they try to change their circumstances. In the case of our spiritual poverty, it is the opposite. God wants His children to recognize their spiritual poverty so that they will seek their riches from Him.
One can be financially poor and be arrogant and prideful in spirit. Likewise, one can be financially rich and be poor in spirit. King David in the Old Testament is a great example; despite being the King of Israel, he had a humble and contrite heart.
Contrite means sad and humbled by a sense of having done wrong—or sorry for doing wrong. Spiritual poverty is implied here. It is a state where one realizes or recognizes they have nothing of their own and need constant help from God. Being “poor in spirit” is to have a humble and contrite heart that constantly seeks help and forgiveness from God throughout their life.
As His disciples, we are no longer living in the streets of sin. Our sins are forgiven. Because of this, we often feel as though we have no needs. We forget that we are still dependent on Jesus. We are often in self-denial about our neediness. We like to think that we are self-sufficient.
“If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:8-9).
You see, Jesus offers help and ongoing forgiveness to His needy disciples. But self-sufficient disciples do not ask, nor do they constantly admit or confess their sins because they do not sense their needs. Are you a needy disciple? A beggar in spirit? Thankful for forgiveness, yet sorry for your sins? Or, have you forgotten you are a forgiven beggar? If you recognize your need for Christ and your spiritual poverty, that's exactly where Christ wants you. When you are weak, He is strong. "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." 2 Cor.12:9
Remember, only God is perfect and self-sufficient. Everything we have comes from Him. Are you poor in spirit? If you are, you have the brightest future anyone has ever known. The kingdom of heaven is your future home—what a day that will be!