Blessed Are The Poor In Spirit

Matthew 5:1-3

This is the first post in a series on the Beatitudes, a section of scripture that is familiar to those of us who paid attention in Sunday school, but also an understudied section. It’s a shame really, because there is so much to learn in a very short number of verses.

First the setting. In chapter 4, Jesus has endured the temptation of Satan and emerged into a popular public ministry, and called the first disciples. He made his way through the Galilee region and began healing the sick. People came from all over, from the ten towns surrounding the Sea of Galilee all the way to Syria and across the Jordan.

So Jesus went up on a mountain (and there are plenty to choose from in that region. The photo on the website’s main page is one I took while standing on such a mountain in Israel back in March) and began his Sermon on the Mount, one of the most challenging discourses in the entire Bible.

 The poor in spirit cry out for God’s grace and mercy and he gladly forgives our sins and transfers us into the kingdom of his beloved son, Jesus Christ (Colossians 1:13).

The Beatitudes begin with “blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” This phrase seems simple enough on the surface, but when we dig a little deeper, the glorious truth in this divine aphorism really shines through.

Initially, Jesus mentioning the poor reminds us of him reading the scroll in the synagogue: Isaiah 6:1 “The Spirit of the LORD is upon me, because God has appointed me to bring good news to the poor.” He certainly did, but Jesus here is speaking of a certain kind of poor, the poor in spirit.  As Thomas Watson wrote, these aren’t the “spiritually poor” who “does not know his own beggary” and not the “poor-spirited” who have “mean, base spirits, who act below themselves.” Instead the poor in spirit know they don’t have it all together, and they know they’re insufficient for the task of righteous living. They lack the spiritual power to get ahead. They know they’re depraved. That’s bad.

No! That’s good. That’s blessed. Why? Because it’s the Father’s good pleasure to give you, the poor in spirit, the kingdom.

The self-righteous “law-keepers” who heard Jesus would have tuned out right here, as I’m sure many do today. Christians should recognize that people are sinful and we need a savior to carry our sins for us and grant us his righteousness. By God’s grace alone we are called to repent and believe, and repentance recognizes that I can’t save myself. The poor in spirit cry out for God’s grace and mercy and he gladly forgives our sins and transfers us into the kingdom of his beloved son, Jesus Christ (Colossians 1:13).

“Until we are poor in spirit, Christ is never precious. Until we see our own wants, we never see Christ’s worth. Poverty in spirit is salt and seasoning which makes Christ relish sweet to the soul. Mercy is most welcome to the poor in spirit.”-Watson

So, to those who are not believers, I pray God opens your eyes mercifully to your depravity, your poverty of spirit, so you may run to him for grace you don’t deserve.

To my fellow believers, I pray the same thing. We’re not home yet. There is still struggling against sin ahead of us. Run to Jesus for the grace you still don’t deserve. His living water never runs dry, and his kingdom is eternal, and he’s placed you in it by pure grace.

Glory to God alone.

Lee Jones