"Blessed are the poor in spirit, For theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
This is the first of the beatitudes given in Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount. In case you are wondering where the term ‘beatitudes’ originates, I’ll give a quick history. The eight attitudes given are all precluded with the word blessed. In the fourth century, the Latin Vulgate became the official translation used by the Roman Catholic church. Many theological terms were coined during this time – including the phrase beatitudes. It’s a combination of the Latin word ‘beatus’, which means ‘blessed’, and the word attitude. So beatitude simply means – blessed attitude.
In the beatitudes found in Jesus’ most popular sermon we find eight powerful truths directed to Jesus’ disciples. These eight instructions provide the pathway to the fullness of God’s blessings attainable by every Christian. In a mere 95 words, Jesus gave the blueprint for Christian living. Jesus had a way of boiling truth down to its simplest elements. For example, when asked what are the greatest commandments, Jesus said to Love God with all your being, and to love your neighbor as yourself. “On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.”
Between the Old and New Testaments, there are roughly 775,000 words in the Bible, yet Jesus reduced it down to four primary words – Love God. Love people. Simple, right? The truths of scripture are simple to understand, but very difficult to live by. While there are those who attempt to complicate the word of God with formulas, religious ideologies, and human philosophies, the truth is that scripture was intended to be understood by a child-like heart. Or as the Apostle Paul put it, “I fear that as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, your minds might become corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ.”
In other words, if truth isn’t simple, it’s probably not truth. Confusion is the breeding ground for deception. If Christianity requires a guru, it becomes man-dependent instead of Christ dependent. Jesus didn’t weave a tangled form of logic when leading His people toward their blessed assurance. He showed truth in its simplest form. When truth is taught, it should always clarify and show simplicity.
The teachings of scripture are very simple to understand, but very difficult to live by. The reason is our human nature. The Bible says that our flesh is at war with the Spirit of God; therefore, anything that appeals to our flesh is at enmity with God. Anything that comes from the Lord calls us to abandon the flesh. Such is the command:
Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Think about how this contradicts human nature and worldly philosophy. Who wants to be poor? The poor are dependent upon help from outside of themselves. The same is true for those who are poor in spirit. Human nature wants to be self-sufficient. Sometimes this creeps in through religion, and things that seem to be words of wisdom. Most of these fall into the ‘believe in yourself’ category.
The problem is that we are trying to feel good about ourselves instead of focusing on humbling ourselves so we can be transformed. It’s not a matter of believing in yourself, but believing in God to accomplish what He has promised in your life. And that begins with a humble spirit.
As long as I am pumping up my ego and trying to enrich my spirit by human effort, I fall short of the blessing God intends for me. The promise is not, “God helps those who help themselves.” The promise is, “Blessed are those who are poor in Spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of God.” It’s a call to recognize my complete inability to raise my dead life up to God’s standard. Whether we realize it or not, we are completely dependent upon the Lord to lift us up.
There is no greater confidence than the one who believes in God, who gives life to the dead and the Lord, who calls things that are not as though they were (Romans 4:17). This was the blessing of Abraham. Abraham didn’t believe in himself, but the Bible says that even though reality was contrary to hope, this man still had hope in the promises of God. In other words, he recognized his own hopelessness, and that drove him to look outside of himself to the word of the Lord. He believed God and found the source of true hope.
This is what it means to be poor in spirit. It’s to recognize your inability to overcome human nature by your own efforts. It’s to abandon the hope of your efforts and look to the Lord. It’s to become a willing dependent upon the Lord knowing the blessing of life is found in Him alone. It’s not a blessing to believe in your abilities, for they are limited to the strength of the human spirit. And that human spirit can never rise above the flesh that is contrary to the Lord. Or as Jesus said, “The flesh profits you nothing.” While your best efforts may be noble based on the human standard, those who are poor in Spirit are blessed, for they find a greater kingdom than what they can build themselves.
It’s a hard concept to grasp, for we are achievement driven. We want to do something for God. We want to prove ourselves to God. We want to earn God’s favor. But His favor cannot be earned or bought. It is not to the rich, but to the poor – for grace means unmerited favor. The rich in spirit are rich toward their own kingdom, but the poor inspirit are invited into a kingdom whose maker and builder is God. And they are truly blessed, for that kingdom is built around God’s love toward His people and will not fail when His people fall short.
Blessed are the poor in spirit, For theirs is the kingdom of heaven.