“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 5:3 NIV)
The Beatitudes are among the first words that Jesus spoke in his public ministry, and he began them this way: “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” Jesus was saying that God’s kingdom and his blessing belong to those who are “poor in spirit.” What did he mean by that?
Jesus was not talking about being poor in the things of this world, although a poor person could be poor in spirit. Rather Jesus was speaking about someone who realizes their need for God—someone who says, “I can’t do it on my own. God, I need your mercy; I need strength; I need wisdom to raise my children; I need help with my finances; I need direction for my life!” If you are poor in spirit, you acknowledge before God that you do not have it together; that you do not have what it takes. Jesus said that person is “blessed,” a word that in the original language means “happy, to be envied, and full of spiritual joy.”
Please understand that this was radical teaching at the time, for it was—and still is today—so contrary to the thinking of the world. In the world’s eyes, it is the person who is rich in this world’s goods, or has his or her PhD, who is considered a person to be envied. But Jesus said, “No, blessed are the poor in spirit.” In other words, it’s not about going up and getting yourself to a place where you think people would envy you as a result; but rather sinking low and saying, God, I can’t make it without you.”
Those who feel their poverty and keep asking God to help them are the ones who are happy, because their security is not in themselves. Actually, most times, the biggest disappointment in our lives is we ourselves. But when we look away from ourselves and look to God, everything changes; for though we may fail ourselves, he never fails.
This is hard to accept, because the world teaches the opposite. It says, “Blessed are the self-sufficient.” But Jesus says, “Happy are those who sense their need for God.” Why? Because they call on God, and now they have available to them all the power and the riches of the glory of God!
Even though the poor in spirit may have needs and may be wiping away tears, sensing in our hearts our need for God is the place of blessing. This is where every Christian should want to be—needing God every hour, every minute of our lives.
Read Matthew 5:1-12.