What Does it Mean to be "Poor in Spirit?"
Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness. This ideal in our Constitution is one our American forefathers held dear. But it is also one espoused by our King Jesus; although, perhaps not exactly how our Founders envisioned. As Christians, we have life eternally through the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus. Through the crucifiction and consequent propitiation of our sins, we have liberty from sin and eternal death. But what I want to focus on today and in the next handful of articles is the pursuit of happiness. Everyone wants to be happy. Humans long for satisfaction and happiness in the deepest part of our being. And we turn to anything and everything to satisfy that longing. We use family, money, and pleasure to fill that void. But it is a false happiness, leaving us feeling empty, broken, and depressed. The good news is Jesus wants us to be truly happy and He tells us how we can be. Though, again, it may not be what you expect.
The key to happiness is found in the Beatitudes of Matthew 5:1-16. Today we will look at verse 3:
"Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven."
Right at the start, Jesus destroys the myth that wealth leads to happiness. This is something some of us might agree with in part. Yet we still strive after more and more, hoping if we just had a little extra something we wouldn't be so unhappy. Us in the West usually have a limited head knowledge of poverty. Even those of us who struggle to make ends meet have difficulty comprehending what possessing nothing looks like. No money, no place to sleep, no hope to attain either, and living completely at the mercy of others.
But Jesus is speaking about far more than temporal poverty. He is communicating a heavenly truth with earthly imagery. The truth of spiritual poverty that Jesus is speaking of is complete destitution. Or poverty so extreme that one lacks the means to provide for oneself.
So what does being destitute in spirit look like? Only two chapters before this, Matthew introduces us to a group of men who are the opposite. These men prayed, gave tithe and offerings, worshipped The LORD properly, and studied Scripture diligently. Those men were the Pharisees. On the surface, you might say these men were holy. Admirable even. They wanted to get rebellious Israel back on track worshipping Yahweh and kick out their pagan rulers. If I'm being honest, I would have been a Pharisee. But these men were the furthest thing from poor in spirit. They were proud, self-righteous hypocrites. They misinterpreted Scripture and made it about themselves instead of God. They trusted in their religious works and traditions to secure them a place in heaven. These men were rich in spirit. And it is against that backdrop that Jesus begins the Beatitudes.
Being poor in spirit is this: no matter your economic or social standing in life you recognize that apart from Jesus your spiritual standing is destitute. You possess nothing. You can offer God nothing. No part of you without Jesus is good enough to stand before a holy and righteous God and live.
The good news is Jesus wants us to be truly happy and He tells us how we can be.
But for the Christian, Jesus is our righteousness and our advocate. He is our wealth. He is our inheritance. He is our Brother. And that makes you a son or daughter of God! And so being poor in spirit means Jesus is our greatest treasure. This is only possible when we recognize the spiritual state we are in and our need for Him. He becomes all we have, our greatest desire. This is the promised Kingdom of Heaven. It is living eternally in the presence of our good God and Savior, our friend, and our King Jesus. And Jesus knows that for His people, nothing could make us happier than forever increasing in knowledge and love for Him. Eternal life began the day you met Jesus. And this promise of happiness is not just a future reality, but a present one.
So in your personal worship time today, thank God for saving you from your poverty and giving you who had nothing the most awe-inspiring gift of all time: Jesus Christ! By yourself you are poor and destitute. But forevermore you have Jesus who will never leave you or forsake you and that makes you eternally wealthy in the Kingdom of Heaven.