The Poor in Spirit
The beatitudes might better be called the “attitude that ought to be.” It is our attitude that is the key to God’s blessing. The more we chase after happiness, the less likely we are to find it. It is when we are about the Lord’s business of accomplishing His will for our lives, that happiness finds us. Happiness comes from who we are, not by what we have. Even if we are obedient to God, if we have a wrong attitude, we will not be abundantly blessed. The prodigal son’s older brother might be an example of this idea.
Even if we are obedient to God, if we have a wrong attitude, we will not be abundantly blessed. The prodigal son’s older brother might be an example of this idea.
The beatitudes could be described as character traits that believers should work toward if we are to become like Jesus. Our goal is to be like Jesus if we are to be called His disciples. The first of the beatitudes is Matthew 5:3 “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”
It seems to be a mystery to define “poor in spirit.” Luke 21:2 describes a poor widow: “he saw also a certain poor widow putting in two mites.” The Greek word for poor is “pentichros.” This describes someone who is poor, but at least they have something. The widow did have two mites. The Greek word for poor in Matthew 5:3 is “ptochos.” This describes someone who has absolutely nothing, to be completely bankrupt.
When Jesus spoke of being “poor in spirit,” he was not referring to financial poverty. If this were the case, then we should all get rid of our money and encourages others to do so. Nothing in the Bible teaches that Christians have to be poor. Neither was Jesus talking about having a “poor me” attitude. To be poor in spirit is to see ourselves as spiritually poor. When we compare ourselves to someone else, we may think: “I’m not perfect, but at least I’m not as bad as ________.” We think of being poor or rich being a relative or subjective adjective. This is not the meaning of poor in spirit. To be poor in spirit is to see yourself as spiritually bankrupt. The only spiritual value we have is in Jesus.
We must begin to see ourselves compared to God Almighty. He is rich; compared to Him we are indeed bankrupt. Any spirit we have is only because of Him. I Thessalonians 5:23 says a man has a body, soul, and spirit. God created all three – our body, soul, and spirit. Our spirit is created in God’s image. When we become a believer in Jesus, the Holy Spirit comes to dwell in us. All of this is because of God; none of it is because of us.
When we see who God is, then we can see who we are. In Isaiah 6:1-5 Isaiah said: “I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, high and lifted up, and the train of His robe filled the temple.” (verse 1) The seraphim were crying out: “Holy, holy, holy is the L-RD of hosts; the whole earth is full of His glory!” (verse 3) When Isaiah saw God’s holiness, his response was: “Woe is me, for I am undone! Because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the L-RD of hosts.” (verse 5) Isaiah shows us what it means to be “poor in spirit.” He saw himself as spiritually bankrupt.
In Luke 5:1-8 Jesus told Peter to “Launch out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch.” (verse 4) Peter’s response was: “Master, we have toiled all night and caught nothing; nevertheless at Your word, I will let down the net.” (verse 5) When they hauled in a large catch of fish, Peter had a different response: “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord!” (verse 8) Peter saw himself as spiritually bankrupt.
The apostle Paul was a Pharisee. He was well-educated, a student of Gamaliel. He was a Roman citizen. He kept the Jewish law. Paul’s attitude was: “Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ.” (Philippians 3:8) Paul knew he had no righteousness of his own apart from the righteous in Jesus, His Messiah. Until we see who we really are in the sight of a holy God, we are not spiritually poor.
God will not bless us until He has first broken us. We must first come to the end of ourselves. Until we empty ourselves of pride, anger, lust, jealousy and other such sins before God, He will not use us to serve Him. It is possible that God may choose to bless those who are still in sin because He wants His blessing to overcome them and convict them of their sin. God’s ultimate goal is to draw us to Him. Sometimes God may chastise His sheep in their disobedience, but sometimes He may bless His sheep to bring them back to Him. The love of God compels His child to love Him and submit to Him.
A gorgeous beauty queen, the greatest of athletes, the most intelligent scientist, and the most creative artist, all must come to Jesus the same way. In Luke 18:4 Jesus tells us: “Therefore whoever humbles himself as this little child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.” God is not impressed with our worldly accolades. We must come to Him as a little child for salvation.
Being “poor in spirit” is more than being humble. It is an attitude of complete brokenness before the Lord. We have nothing to bring to Him that would make us worthy to be in His presence. We must continue to be broken before the Lord if we want His blessing. Being “poor in spirit” is not one step to be checked off as we proceed to the next step. We must continue in a state of brokenness all the days of our lives.
Notes from Dr. Adrian Rogers Taught by Dr. Susie Stiles