BEATITUDES SERIES: Poor in Spirit (part 1)

MATTHEW 5:3: “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”


There is a great example, maybe even a ‘famous example’ in Isaiah 6 (in the Old Testament) that is a perfect example of what it looks like to be ‘poor in spirit.’

Isaiah 6:1-5 says, “In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord seated on a throne, high and exalted, and the train of His robe filled the temple.  2 Above Him were seraphs, each with six wings: With two wings they covered their faces, with two they covered their feet, and with two they were flying.  3 And they were calling to one another: “Holy, holy, holy is the LORD Almighty; the whole earth is full of His glory.”  4 At the sound of their voices the doorposts and thresholds shook and the temple was filled with smoke.  5 “Woe to me!” I cried. “I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the LORD Almighty.”

The prophet Isaiah has a vision that he records where he encounters God… the King… the Lord Almighty.  Isaiah sees the throne room of God and the awesomeness that happens there.  God’s glory fills the throne room.  He glimpses angels constantly flying around God calling out how holy and wonderful God is.  There is shaking and power flowing from the angels singing and God sitting on the throne.  

You see, Isaiah encounters God and what we see is someone poor in spirit which is the main thought we have for today in our time in the Word.  The reaction of Isaiah is being ‘poor in spirit.’  Isaiah understands his sinfulness especially when compared to the Almighty God who is perfect, holy, and completely righteous.  Isaiah feels as though he will melt away because he is in the presence of a mighty and holy God.  That is being poor in spirit.  Isaiah feels his inadequacy when he compares himself to God.  Isaiah understand his place in the whole order of creation and understands God’s place in the whole order of creation.  That is part of what it means to be “poor in spirit.”


The word “blessed” in this sentence is a particular word that means “happy” or “joy from a divine source.”  I like to think of it as “a state of being where I am exactly where God wants me to be and therefore my heart is in the right place.” As we move through the beatitudes, we are going to be discussing ways of living our lives and where we want our hearts to end up.  When our hearts end up (‘fill in the blank’) you and I will be the kind of people we want to be… but more importantly we will be the kind of people that God wants us to be.  Each of these beatitudes is about our hearts and attitudes and motivations that will change as we abide in Christ.  I don’t know about you, but I often need to check my heart and my attitudes because I find myself with sinful attitudes.  

A sinful heart means I treat others poorly.

A sinful attitude means I think about relationships or issues in a wrong way and say the wrong thing.

A sinful heart means I think about myself in a wrong way.


There is a great example in Luke 5 (in the New Testament) that is a perfect example of what it looks like to be ‘poor in spirit.’

Luke 5:1-8 says, “One day as Jesus was standing by the Lake of Gennesaret, with the people crowding around Him and listening to the word of God,  2 He saw at the water’s edge two boats, left there by the fishermen, who were washing their nets.  3 He got into one of the boats, the one belonging to Simon, and asked him to put out a little from shore. Then He sat down and taught the people from the boat.  4 When He had finished speaking, He said to Simon, “Put out into deep water, and let down the nets for a catch.”  5 Simon answered, “Master, we’ve worked hard all night and haven’t caught anything. But because You say so, I will let down the nets.”  6 When they had done so, they caught such a large number of fish that their nets began to break.  7 So they signaled their partners in the other boat to come and help them, and they came and filled both boats so full that they began to sink.  8 When Simon Peter saw this, he fell at Jesus’ knees and said, “Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man!”

I think describing being “poor in spirit” is a hard thing to do which is why seeing someone who is exhibiting those qualities is important to notice.  Here again we have an example of being “poor in spirit” just like we did with Isaiah.  I think we see an example of being poor in spirit in two ways in this passage.

First, Peter says to Jesus in verse 5, “But because You say so.”  That is significant.  In Peter’s experience as a fisherman there was no need to do more fishing… the fish didn’t want to be caught.  In my experience, no fish ever wants to get caught ever no matter the magic trick or bait or fancy lure.  That’s just me.  Peter had not caught fish and yet Peter acted in obedience which went against all of his instincts as a fisherman.  

Part of being “poor in spirit” is obedience and yielding to the authority of God.  

Part of being “poor in spirit” is obedience and yielding to the teachings of Jesus Christ.

Part of being “poor in spirit” is obedience and yielding to the voice of the Holy Spirit. 

Being poor in spirit means we understand that God’s ways are above our ways and we are under His 

leadership.  We see that played out practically in this passage in the life of Peter.

Second, we see Peter acting much like Isaiah did in Isaiah 6.  Isaiah has a vision of the Almighty God in His thunderous glory.  Peter comes face-to-face with a miracle done by God-with-us (Jesus) and he feels so inadequate.  He feels small.  He feels sinful.  I want you to please notice that Peter does not feel inadequate or small or sinful compared to the other people around him… no… he feels this way when he compares himself to Jesus Christ the Son of God.  The miracle enables him to realize that he is unworthy of being in the service of Jesus.  He feels less.  He feels small.  

SIDE NOTE: If I might make a side note here, you and I who are believers in Jesus Christ are sons and daughters of the Most High God.  We will be with Him forever in Heaven.  He loves us with the intensity of Creation.  He sacrifices for us with the intensity of death.  Please find your worth and your value and your validation in the eyes of God the Father.  Don’t let anyone make you feel like you are less-than because of how they treat you or what words they say to you or about you.  You are a child of God.  Our sin and mistakes do not define us.  Our God defines our worth in spite of our sin… every… single… time.  Hold that head high and find worth in the sight of God our Redeemer.  And yet, bow that head low when in God’s presence because He is Who we bow to and it is His opinion that matters.

Anyway, Simon Peter encounters Jesus and what we see is someone poor in spirit.  The reaction of Peter is being poor in spirit.  I cannot help but think of the words “humble obedience” that help us describe being poor in spirit.  We certainly see that Peter is aware of his sinfulness, we see that in verse 8.  This is similar to Isaiah.  What I think is important in this passage is the humble obedience brought on by the awareness of who we are as compared to the righteous holy God.


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