‘‘Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.’’ Matt. 5:3
Additional reading: Luk. 6:20; Psa. 51:17; Prov. 16:19; 29:23; Isa. 57:15; 66:2
Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount is no doubt His first major public outing after His forty days fast and temptation. This sermon as presented here showcases God’s guideline for the accepted Christian conduct whether in the private or public place. In other words, it outlines those moral values or rules (spiritual and physical), which the New Testament believer must live by if he must inherit the Kingdom of God.
He began by saying this: ‘‘Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.’’ What does it mean to be poor in spirit? We live in a time when poverty is considered a curse; something that is not of God. It is a taboo to hear anyone take of poverty. Why should a child of God be poor when Christ has made us rich through His death? They would ask.
This is obviously not the kind of poverty Jesus drew our attention to. I am also of the view that Christ desires us all to be financially strong for in it He is glorified. So, Jesus must have had another kind of poverty in mind. We must note that of all the codes mentioned here, this happens to be the first. This to me shows a great deal of importance of this spiritual code of conduct. This is not to say that other codes delivered at this sermon are not important.
Now note this: ‘‘Blessed [makarios … supremely blest; by extension fortunate, well off: – blessed, happy (happier)] are the poor [ptochos … to crouch, be a beggar] in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.’’ The first word, blessed implies a sound spiritual well being, which believers in Jesus Christ would enjoy. While being poor in spirit implies one who totally depends on Jesus Christ. So, when Jesus made this statement He meant that those who will totally depend on Him…completely rely in Him having recognized their spiritual weaknesses or their inability to help themselves will find help and support in Him and for this will inherit the Kingdom of God.
See these: ‘‘You’re blessed when you’re at the end of your rope. With less of you there is more of God and his rule.’’ (MSG.) ‘‘Blessed are those who recognize they are spiritually helpless. The Kingdom of heaven belongs to them.’’ (GW.) ‘‘God blesses those who depend only on him. They belong to the Kingdom of heaven! (CEV.) If the above from these different versions are correct, then, Jesus’ statement was a call on all to rely on Him for their spiritual well being and not to think that by their efforts they can inherit eternity.
I must state that when Jesus made this statement, He did not direct it only at His followers. As a matter of fact, He had very limited people that believed in Him. So, it would be wrong to say that only Christians or believers in Christ should show dependence in Him. He made this statement in public and in the presence of all including the Pharasees who believed in total obedience and reliance in the Law of Moses, which placed emphasis on salvation through works.
Therefore, Jesus in real terms said that for anyone to be saved, he or she must be convinced that he is spiritually helpless — unable to save himself. Having recognised this, such persons must admit that salvation comes from Him alone. Then for those who have been saved, they are to continuously depend on Jesus for the totality for their spiritual well being.
In Luke 18: 9 – 14, Jesus gave a parable where He pictured a Pharasee at prayers and a repentant publican or commoner. In this parable the Pharasee who was self righteous believed that salvation came from works and prayed thus: ‘‘…God, I thank you that I am not greedy, dishonest, and unfaithful in marriage like other people. And I am really glad that I am not like that tax collector over there. I go without eating for two days a week, and I give you one tenth of all I earn.’’ But the tax collector on the other hand felt truly sorry for his sins and felt unworthy to look up to heaven while praying. He said: ‘‘God, have pity on me! I am such a sinner.’’ In concluding this parable, Jesus pointed out that it was not the Pharasee that pleased God but the tax collector who showed total dependence on God to grant him salvation.
To this end, King David said: ‘‘The sacrifice that God wants is a humble spirit. God, you will not turn away someone who comes with a humble heart and is willing to obey you.’’ (Psa. 51:17 ERV.) This is the attitude expected of every child of God—a humble heart—one that depends on God’s grace through Jesus Christ and not that of works like the Pharasee. Many of us like the Pharasee believe that our deeds like tithes and offerings, fasting or self holiness and righteous can take us to heaven. As seen above, this takes no one anywhere. Our tithes and offerings or fasting are our responsibilities to God and ourselves; we should not think that by carrying out our duties (doing those things expected of us) we can attain eternity. Rather, like the commoner, God expects we go to Him daily for His grace to see us through.
Meditation: How have I humbled myself before God?
Prayer: I thought I could do it on my own but now I realise that indeed I am weak. I ask that you help me through your Spirit so that I do not miss out of your Kingdom.
Question: Who is poor in spirit? Explain in your words.