Poor in Spirit


Matthew 5:3
3 “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

This verse does not say, “Blessed are the poor,” for we cannot confuse spiritual depravity and monetary status. While those who are poor in spirit may well be poor socioeconomically, the rich also may be poor in spirit. Our worldly view of what it means to be poor is confronted in this one sentence where Jesus is saying we must stop focusing on the physical and concern ourselves more with the spiritual. So what exactly does it mean to be poor in spirit, anyway?

In Romans 7, we discover Paul writing about his own poverty in spirit:

14 For we know that the Law is spiritual, but I am of flesh, sold into bondage to sin. 15 For what I am doing, I do not understand; for I am not practicing what I would like to do, but I am doing the very thing I hate. 16 But if I do the very thing I do not want to do, I agree with the Law, confessing that the Law is good. 17 So now, no longer am I the one doing it, but sin which dwells in me. 18 For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh; for the willing is present in me, but the doing of the good is not. 19 For the good that I want, I do not do, but I practice the very evil that I do not want. 20 But if I am doing the very thing I do not want, I am no longer the one doing it, but sin which dwells in me. 21 I find then the principle that evil is present in me, the one who wants to do good. 22 For I joyfully concur with the law of God in the inner man, 23 but I see a different law in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin which is in my members. 24 Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death?

Being poor in spirit is recognizing that without God’s Spirit residing inside us, we are hopeless against sin and evil. The word poor, inciting thoughts of poverty, helps us to recognize that it means we are missing something. What we are missing, however, are not relationships, material things, more knowledge, or anything else, but the very Spirit of God. We must arrive to this point; we must recognize that we are poor until we are endowed with the riches of His love as Paul does in verse 25:

25 Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, on the one hand I myself with my mind am serving the law of God, but on the other, with my flesh the law of sin.

We try so hard to please and fulfill ourselves, but to no avail. We have been born with what I like to call a “God shaped hole,” which is an internal need to have God in our lives. Yet we try to fill this gap with so many other things: work, money, sex, alcohol, relationships, and abuse…this list goes on. We are trying to jam the wrong puzzle piece into a jigsaw puzzle hoping it will complete the picture. That last piece we have been so desperately searching for our whole lives is God and His Spirit. So why then will these poor in spirit have the kingdom of heaven? Because when we recognize that our poverty is that we do not have God in our lives, we will work to have Him in our lives. When we find the puzzle piece and where it is, we will be working to get that piece where it belongs to complete the picture.

We must humble ourselves and admit that we cannot do it without God. We must ask Him for His help and step outside of our pride and self-sufficiency to recognize that without Him, we cannot be free of our sin, the burden of our problems, nor free to live in God’s Kingdom. Jesus gave the answer in John 8 as to how we begin to receive the cure for this poverty:

31 So Jesus was saying to those Jews who had believed Him, “If you continue in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine; 32 and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.”

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