Blessed are the Poor in Spirit | Matthew 5

Welcome to Real Life. My glass is not half-full or half-empty. It’s empty.

Blessed are they who see beautiful things in humble places
where other people see nothing.
–Camille Pissarro

When Jesus climbed the mountainside to deliver his Sermon on the Mount, he didn’t just see a crowd. He saw Jacob and Rachel and Paul and Martha. He saw the deep longings and needs of individual hearts. He still does. He sees my face in the multitude. He sees yours, too. Jesus begins by addressing the small, the harassed and helpless, those typically overlooked.
Blessed are the poor in spirit,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
The Son of God launched his public ministry in Galilee. He chose a region far from Jerusalem—the center of religious power and authority. He taught, proclaimed the good news of the kingdom, and healed every disease and sickness. Thousands began following Jesus Christ, not just from Galilee, but from the Decapolis, Judea, the region across the Jordan, and even from Jerusalem. Miracles, of course, draw multitudes. But it was more than that. We don't all need physical healing. However, we do all need spiritual healing. “When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd,” (Matthew 9:36). The poor in spirit, I see you!

What does it mean to be poor in spirit? I only question this when I’m feeling strong and confident. The last time I read this, however, I felt small, discouraged, anxious, and weak. Poor in spirit defined me. I needed no explanation.

When I’m feeling poor in spirit, I tend to believe God is disappointed in me. If I were stronger spiritually, I would not succumb to these feelings of weakness. I would walk in power and victory. Thereby, Jesus’ declaration appears nonsensical. The poor in spirit don’t feel blessed. And how does this spiritual poverty lead to the kingdom of heaven?

Perhaps the answer lies in humility. “The poor in spirit, these are my people!” I hear Jesus saying as I realize our soul’s poverty does not disappoint Him. The humble, the poor in spirit, these are the ones Jesus came to save. Only the empty can be filled with his Spirit; and only by his Spirit can we enter his kingdom.[1]

In contrast, many of the Pharisees and teachers of the law bore the attitude God is lucky to have me in his kingdom. They seemed confident their letter-of-the-law lifestyle earned them a prominent seat at heaven’s table. When we’re full of ourselves, however, we have no room for God. Thereby, we can’t receive the blessing of his kingdom.

The truth is this. We are all poor in spirit. Bravado, strength, and accomplishments may mask our need. But stripped of trappings, apart from Christ, we are all wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked.[2] All that we possess (our very breath) is a gift from God’s hand. So, Jesus begins his most famous sermon by addressing the poverty of every human heart.

Blessed are the poor in spirit. Jesus sees you! And he’s not disappointed in you. He is ready, willing, and able to bestow his blessing. Open your heart and receive it!

Fill my cup, Lord.
I lift it up, Lord.[3]

Take it further... Read Jesus’ entire Sermon on the Mount

The Beatitudes

“Blessed are the poor in spirit,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn,
for they will be comforted.
Blessed are the meek,
for they will inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
for they will be filled.
Blessed are the merciful,
for they will be shown mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart,
for they will see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers,
for they will be called children of God.
Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”
Matthew 5:3–10 (NIV)


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IMAGE:  Photo by Honza Vojtek on Unsplash
[1] John 3:3–8
[2] Revelation 3:17
[3] “Fill my Cup, Lord” by Richard Blanchard (1925–2004)


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