Poor In Spirit
The Sermon on the Mount
On a mountain, Jesus preached what is quite possibly the most well-known sermon ever given—the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5:1). Matthew shared this sermon in his gospel account. It came on the heels of Jesus calling His first disciples and beginning to preach the gospel of the kingdom in the region of Galilee (all found in chapter 4). The sermon spans three chapters and Matthew closes it by saying that Jesus’ listeners (multitudes) were “astonished at his doctrine: for he taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes” (7:28-29).
Jesus’ sermon recorded here is likely similar to the type of teaching that He did. It is a discourse, giving instruction on the norms of living in God’s kingdom. This is what it looks like to be a part of His kingdom and to live in a way that pleases Him.
Jesus begins His sermon with a series of beatitudes. Roughly translated from Latin, it means “blessed.” To be blessed is to have the approval of someone. D.A. Carson put it this way:
To be “blessed” means, fundamentally, to be approved, to find approval. When man blesses God, he is approving God. Of course, he is not doing this in some condescending manner, but rather he is eulogizing God, praising God. When God blesses man, he is approving man; and that is always an act of condescension. (Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount—and His Confrontation with the World, pg. 16)
Each statement begins with the word “blessed,” simply explaining that a person is blessed when they live a certain way. And they are blessed, not only because they will have God’s approval, but also because Jesus makes a promise with each of them.
This series will look at each of the eight Beatitudes given by Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount (recorded in Matthew). It is our desire to encourage you by digging into each one. Let’s consider the first Beatitude listed for us in Matthew 5:3: “Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”
Poor in Spirit
What does it mean to be poor in spirit, and why does Jesus start here? To be poor in spirit is really the beginning of what it means to enter God’s kingdom. To be poor in spirit is the starting point of following Christ. Obviously, Jesus is not saying that you are blessed if you don’t have a lot of money or possessions. He explicitly speaks of those who are poor in spirit. The word for poor here gives the idea of someone who is utterly destitute.
When we talk about “poorness,” we could be talking about someone who struggles to make ends meet. This might be someone who pays the bills a little late from time to time. Or, we could be referring to someone who has absolutely nothing. They have the clothes on their back and that’s it. They need to beg for necessities each day. This is the type of poorness that Christ is talking about. He says that you are blessed when you are destitute—a beggar—poor in spirit.
Someone is poor in spirit when they realize that they are entirely dependent on the Lord for everything. When it comes down to it, everyone is poor in spirit, but not everyone recognizes this truth. We can only enter the kingdom of God when we grasp our utter need for a Savior for our sins. When we come to Jesus Christ in repentance and faith, trusting in Him alone for the salvation of our souls, we are truly poor in spirit. But, this poorness in spirit doesn’t end there. It should continue throughout our life.
When we are poor in spirit, we depend on God for everything. We need God for our breath, we need Him for our breakfast, and we need Him for our brains. We realize that there is nothing that we can accomplish without God upholding us and granting us the ability to do so. We are utterly dependent on Him for all our earthly goods, for dealing with relationships, and for waking up again each morning. We go to God with our joys and our struggles. We lean on Him when we hit the depths of despair and when everything seems to be going right. We know that Paul was right when he said that “all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28). That is what it means to be poor in spirit.
Theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven
And those who are poor in spirit—who have entered the kingdom of God in this lowly state—are blessed. Why are they blessed? Besides the fact that they have the approval of God upon their lives, they received a promise that is a part of that blessing. The poor in spirit are blessed for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Those who have come to faith in Christ will indeed enter into glory upon their death.
However, it is also true that they are a part of the kingdom of heaven here and now, and it is theirs to experience and live in today. When we are in Christ, we have fellowship with Him, we have the joy of knowing the greatest Treasure of the universe (Matthew 13:44). As a part of the kingdom of heaven, we now enjoy knowing that God hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ. That means that we have all the spiritual blessings possible right now, and we will fully experience them all with Him one day in heaven. Amen and amen!