Blessed are the Poor in Spirit #1

Today I’m beginning a new approach with a series on the Beatitudes, the series of statements at the beginning of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount that each begin with “Blessed are…”  One Beatitude per week, Mon-Fri, a different way each day.

The first Beatitude is from Matthew 5:3 –

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”

Today’s angle on it is how the statement addresses different people’s needs in such a simple way with only a few words.  This was the opening of a speech to great crowds that had followed him, crowds with all sorts of people.

The Greek word for “poor” here is a word suggesting one who has been reduced to begging.  They have nothing of their own and are entirely dependent on others.  Some (“the proud”) would have been rebuked, thinking their own works made them blessed, and might have been shocked to be compared with a beggar.  Those “ashamed” of their own works would have been comforted that they are blessed since they didn’t feel they measured up to the achievements of the proud.  They knew they were poor, but not blessed.  The proud think they’re ok because of what they’ve accomplished; the ashamed think they aren’t ok because their accomplishments seem smaller. The “proud” and “ashamed” were both in need of good news.

Note that I did not contrast “proud” with “humble”, because I don’t think these are opposites.  Instead, humility is contentedness in our proper place before God and others.  The “proud” become humble when Christ rebukes them so that they can experience His blessing.  The “ashamed” become humble when Christ reassures them of His love and acceptance so that they can experience His blessing.

The first beatitude reminds everyone in that crowd that acknowledging their spiritual poverty is the first step, but also that being poor is not incurable.  Knowing we are poor in spirit may actually be desirable, but only when paired with knowledge of His provision[1].  The more we realize our need and beg Him for the solution, the more He can, and will, bless us.  The crowds coming to hear Him needed to hear this Beatitude first of all because if anyone refuses to be humble before Christ, the rest of His speech won’t matter.  The kingdom is not for them (yet).

In Christ, we are blessed because He is infinitely rich in spirit.  However, sometimes our pride or our shame prevent us from knowing that we are blessed!  Then when we lack hope in that blessing, we miss our King’s will for us in His kingdom.  We can’t be good enough, and don’t have to be good enough, and we don’t have be better or worse than anyone else.

Today the Great Physician waits to cure you if you will come and be humbled by Him.  Seek His blessing and His will. Tues – Fri I’m planning to cover ways people Jesus met failed to realize their spiritual poverty across 4 dimensions: Degree, person, activity, and scope.

This post begins a series on the Beatitudes. For the next post click here

[1] I recently posted a song about this idea, “Once I Prayed” by Phil Keaggy, here

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