“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”
I don’t think it was an accident that Jesus began his sermon on the mount with this Beatitude. Given as an introduction to His most widely known sermon, these 9 new ways to approach a relationship with God were presented by Jesus as a vision statement to His followers. For thousands of years the Jews were bound to the old law, the one given to Moses by God on Mt. Sinai. Now Jesus would take a seat on a mountaintop to lay the groundwork for a new covenant relationship with Him.
Blessed are the poor in spirit was the starting point, and wow, it was challenging. After all, doesn’t the Bible clearly ask us to be continually developing our relationship with God and to be rich in spirit? Furthermore, on the path to Christian maturity Paul encourages believers to graduate from drinking spiritual “milk” so they can move on to solid food. (1 Corinthians 3:2) So how does one process the words of Jesus when He says, “Blessed are the poor in spirit?” What does he mean?
Someone once asked Billy Graham the same question. He responded, “If you want to understand what Jesus was trying to say, simply replace the word “poor” with “humble” in that passage of Scripture and you’ll have your answer.”
“Blessed are the HUMBLE in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”
In my opinion, the greatest way for a believer to connect with humility in Jesus is to understand that Jesus has already given you the greatest gift. Jesus walked the earth, died, and rose again so that whoever would believe in Him would have eternal life. Take a moment to really process that. The requirement for receiving the greatest gift you could ever receive is to simply believe that the gift has been offered to you. Believing in the gift IS receiving the gift!
Being poor in spirit means you accept the simplicity of John 3:16. For God so loved the world He gave His one and only Son, so that whosever believes in Him will have eternal life.
The opposite of being poor in spirit is to refuse the gift and believe that it must be more difficult. There must be a standard that is met, or a process which someone must go through. There must be an invisible ladder that is climbed, and as people make their way up the ladder they can judge each other on how far up or how low other people are.
To be rich in spirit must mean you are:
The most pure
The most successful
And the list goes on…
The Pharisees made a living at this in Scripture, and because of it we often portray them as villains. But listen, they were just trying to figure out life like everybody else. God was a part of their picture, but they really weren’t much different than you and I. They had insecurities, faults, and they made big time mistakes. Unfortunately, their response was to divert attention away from themselves so they could load other people down with a standard of living that could never be attained.
The Pharisees and Sadducees simply figured out that they could present the appearance of being “rich in spirit” on the outside so they could make everyone else feel like they were falling short on the inside.
Did they not ever read this Psalm?
“For though the Lord is high, he regards the lowly, but the haughty he knows from afar.”
But Jesus came along and changed the game with His first line in the Beatitudes. Jesus said it’s not about who’s the smartest, wisest, most pure, successful, etc, etc, etc…It’s all about who is willing to humble themselves and confess that Jesus is Lord. Who is ready to confess that nothing with eternal consequences can be achieved under your own power, but only through the power in Jesus’ name?
I can promise you that many of the people who were listening to that sermon on the mount felt lost. They were looking for a Savior. They were desperate for someone to come along and offer them an escape from a spiritual life they could not keep up with anymore. These people were following Jesus because they heard he was healing people. Word spread about His teaching, and the fact that He spoke with authority. The people who listened to Jesus on that mount had no where to go but up, but no power on their own to get there.
When Jesus said Blessed are the poor in spirit it sent an immediate signal to His followers…“That’s us. We’re blessed!”
They were given hope.
Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven should be a line you repeat to yourself daily. Use it to keep humility front and center in your heart. If the Beatitudes are truly a vision statement for followers of Jesus to aspire to, then the fact that he starts with Be Humble should be given great attention in our lives.
Spiritual humility is a key to the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who practice it.
“Always be humble and gentle. Be patient with each other, making allowance for each other’s faults because of your love. Make every effort to keep yourselves united in Spirit, binding yourselves together with peace. For there is one body and one Spirit, just as you have been called to one glorious hope for the future.”
“But he gives us more grace. That is why Scripture says, “God opposes the proud, but shows favor to the humble.”