The Beatitudes: Poor in Spirit
“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”
Blessed is the one who demonstrates the characteristics of a true Christian. The statements given by Christ in Matthew 5:3 – 10 contains the key for spiritual development. Each beatitude represents a specific divine truth, designed to deepen, and strengthen our life in Christ. It has been said, “the beatitudes demand much, but they give the best life in return.” This is true, each beatitude will challenge the heart to replace carnal living with holy living, and when applied the outcome is great. Jesus in Matthew 5:3 calls every man to be “poor in spirit.”
What does it mean to be “poor in spirit?”
To be “poor in spirit” is to identify one’s spiritual destitution. The idea of being “poor” is to have a spirit of poverty. The “poor in heart” is not proud, conceited, or arrogant. The “poor in spirit” humbly understands that they cannot meritoriously improve their spiritual state without God. The “poor in spirit” will fall on their knees before God because they realize the great need for God’s grace and deliverance from sin and its consequences.
What does it look like to be “poor in spirit?”
Jesus illustrates the proud and the poor in Luke 18:9 – 14. “Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector” (Luke 18:10; NASB). The Pharisee did not have a heart of poverty. His heart was filled with pride (v.11). His prideful and meritorious heart kept him from seeing the greatest need ever—God’s saving grace. The tax collector lifted his eyes and said, “God, be merciful to me, a sinner!” To be poor in spirit characterizes one who humbly understands who and what he is and how he needs grace and deliverance from sin and its everlasting consequences.
As beloved children of God we must guard our hearts from pride. The sin of pride is ugly and deadly. God hates pride (Proverbs 16:5). Pride will destroy our relationship with God. Pride is like poison. It has consumed the hearts of many strong brethren. Beware of pride unless you be deceived. Pride gives a person a false sense of self-sufficiency. Pride blinds a person to their own faults and magnifies the failures and faults of others. A proud heart will dethrone God and enthrone self. God’s will no longer matters to the proud in heart, but the poor in spirit stand in need of God. The poor in heart understand that, without God, there is no hope in this life. This is the heart every Christian must continue to have. A heart of poverty. A heart that recognizes the need of the Savior.
What is the promised blessing to those who are “poor in spirit?”
Jesus concludes, “for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:3b). The poor in spirit will have the privilege of becoming members of the kingdom through baptism (Acts 2:38; Romans 6). Once a person realizes their spiritual poverty, faithful obedience to God’s will is not an option for them. His will and His word become their number one priority. For Christians, we must remain poor in heart throughout this journey. God must always reside in the heart, in order for us to see the eternal Kingdom of God after this life.