MATTHEW 5:3: “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”
POOR IN SPIRIT
I have been thinking about this and doing some reading. Some Christian authors say that being “poor in spirit” is not something that we can learn to do or just decide to become. Some say it is more of an experience. Both Isaiah and Peter did have an experience.
There is not a coupon to become poor in spirit or three easy steps. I think that is because poverty of spirit comes from seeing ourselves in the light of God and understanding that we cannot compare ourselves to others. We must only measure our character or actions or faithfulness or righteousness on God’s terms and not other people.
Poverty of spirit is the opposite of pride.
Poverty of spirit is the opposite of comparing ourselves to others.
Poverty of spirit is the opposite of measuring our spirituality to others.
I am pretty sure that poverty of spirit comes from having an experience with God where we understand who He is and we understand who we are… this creates a humbleness. This creates rightness before God. This also then brings a joy into our lives because we know who we are in light of who God is.
Perhaps you have never had an experience like that. My suggestion is that you ask God to give you eyes of faith to see when such an experience is happening and ask Him to mold your heart in the correct ways because of it.
WHAT DOES IT LOOK LIKE TO BE “POOR IN SPIRIT?”
There is a great example in Luke 18 (in the New Testament) that is a perfect example of what it looks like to be ‘poor in spirit.’
Luke 18:11-14 says, “The Pharisee stood up and prayed about himself: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men– robbers, evildoers, adulterers– or even like this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’ 13 “But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’ 14 “I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”
I love this parable from Jesus. Jesus tells this parable because in verse 9 it says “some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everybody else.” I think we’ve already figured out that being confident in our own righteousness and looking down on others is not only NOT being poor in spirit, but it also means you are a jerk.
The person in this parable who we would say is poor in spirit is the tax collector and not the Pharisee. A tax collector for the Jewish folks of Jesus’ time was a traitor for Rome who cheated fellow Jews out of tax money. A Pharisee for the Jewish folks of Jesus’ time was a high-ranking religious official who led worship and made the moral rules. Honestly, I would expect that it would be the Pharisee who was poor in spirit… doesn’t the religious leader know God the most and serve Him the best? Not always. Wouldn’t the Pharisee or other Teacher of the Law have a closer humbler walk with God? Not always.
Jesus’ parable points out for us that the heart of a person matters. The tax collector was humble. The tax collector understood his place in the order of the world and God’s place in the order of his life. I don’t want you to think that Jesus excused the cheating nature of the tax collector, but I do think Jesus told the parable in this way because only one of the men in the parable is on the right track. Both are sinful, but only one went away justified according to Jesus Christ.
Justified. Justified is an interesting word. Justification means complete forgiveness of sins and a genuine clean slate with the Creator of the Universe. Justification brings joy. Justification brings blessedness. Justification brings happiness. Justification brings the knowledge that you are forgiven by God the Father through Jesus Christ and you live life in the power of the Holy Spirit.
KINGDOM OF HEAVEN
Only those who are poor in spirit will ever enter the Kingdom of Heaven. In just a few verses from this one, Jesus says (5:20): “For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven.” Only those who encounter Jesus Christ and accept Him as Lord and Savior and take their place under His teachings will enter the Kingdom of Heaven.
Being nice won’t get you there.
Being a good person won’t get you there.
Being moral won’t get you there.
Being a church goer won’t get you there.
There will be a lot of nice good moral church goers in hell.
Those who have heard the Gospel and responded with a humble heart and those who are truly poor in spirit because we recognize our spiritual bankruptcy before God and we need Him to save us. We are on our knees with nothing to offer to God. God you do it. God you save. God you give mercy.
And THAT is the beginning of being poor in spirit and entering the Kingdom of Heaven.