Blessed are the Poor in Spirit
January 30, 2015 | by: Dale Thiele | 0 Comments
Note: This is part 1 of an 8 part series reflecting on the Beatitudes of the Sermon on the Mount. These values of the Kingdom of God are also values of our church. How do our values shape who we are and what we do?
Matthew 5:3 "Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven."
When Jesus began his public ministry after his baptism and temptation in the wilderness he preached, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand" (Matt. 4:17). The kingdom of heaven is a spiritual kingdom, into which we enter by faith in Christ and his atoning sacrifice. Jesus brings the kingdom near for us. The Sermon on the Mount is one of the defining discourses that helps us understand life in the kingdom. The first eight verses, known as the Beatitudes (from the Latin word for "blessed"), describe the values of the kingdom, what are esteemed as most important.
Jesus starts by stating, "Blessed are the poor in spirit." This valuing of spiritual poverty resonates with Old Testament teaching. Isaiah 57:15 says, "I dwell in the high and holy place, and also with him who is of a contrite and lowly spirit." David confesses in Psalm 51:17, "The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise."
The foundation of our relationship with God (entering into his kingdom) is not found in us. Being poor in spirit emphasizes our emptiness, our lack of "spirit." The picture that David, Isaiah, and Jesus are painting is that of a beggar, coming empty-handed before the king. The truth of Scripture emphasizes our spiritual poverty before a holy and just God. We are sinful and full short of God's glory. Our "righteous" deeds are like filthy rags before Him. We are unable to earn our place before God.
When Jesus celebrates being poor in spirit as a kingdom value, however, he is speaking about more than our spiritual poverty before a holy God. He is speaking about our understanding that we are spiritually poor. Everyone is spiritually poor before God, but not everyone enjoys the kingdom of heaven. What distinguishes the spiritually poor from the spiritually poor? Humility.
When David and Isaiah apply the words "broken" and "contrite" to "spirit" they highlight the need for personal recognition and confession of our spiritual poverty. In fact, we can say that it is more than mere recognition, but also despair and grief over our poverty. Everyone is spiritually impoverished; not everyone recognizes and grieves their spiritual poverty.
Why is humility over our spiritual poverty a value of the kingdom? Nothing exalts the goodness and sufficiency of the King more than our need and dependency on his provision. The moment we forget our need is the moment we no longer are dependent on Christ.
How does this value work out in our lives and in the life of our church? Let me highlight two ways:
1. Critical to our ongoing growth in Christ is our daily growth in humility before God. Know yourself to be a sinner. Do not think too highly of yourself and your progress. Come to Scriptures on a regular basis to be humbled by the righteousness and power of a holy God. This is why prayer of confession is a part of our weekly worship before God.
2. Being poor in spirit is critical in our outward love for other people. The moment we begin to think more highly of ourselves than others is the moment we stop loving our neighbor as ourselves. The church gathered and scattered is called to make disciples of Jesus. This mission is undermined when we approach others with an attitude of superiority. We all have need equally and Christ alone is the provision for our need and for the needs of all the world. Let us be compelled by our poverty in spirit to love others and share the hope we have found in Christ.