Blessed Are The Poor In Spirit, For Theirs Is The Kingdom of Heaven

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Jesus says, Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven. Matthew 5:3 (English Standard Version)


The goal of a pole vaulter is to get high enough into the air to get over the bar. If he succeeds at a certain height, the bar is set higher up into the air. Sooner or later, the bar will be set high enough in the air that he will not be able to clear the bar.  

Jesus has a high standard of living for His believers. The pole vaulter uses a pole to help him get over the bar. However, believers in Christ must depend on God’s help to reach the standard of living that pleases Him.

The message Jesus gave in the Sermon on the Mount is for born-again believers. In Matthew 5:13-14 Jesus gives us an idea of what He means by a new standard of living. He says that You are the salt of the earth. You are the light of the world. Worldly people have a radically different view of life. As Warren W. Wiersbe says “The world praises pride, not humility. The world endorses sin, especially if you can ‘get away with it.’”  

If we want to be good examples of what it means to be a Christian, we must be “the salt of the earth’ and “the light of the world.” Pure salt cannot lose its usefulness and the light of the world represents godly lives which shows the world the saving power of God.

What does it mean to believers to be “the salt of the earth?” Salt preserves food. Pure salt cannot lose its usefulness. What does it mean to be “the light of the world?” A godly life shows the world the saving power of God.

God’s standard of living is a lot higher than the world’s. Without His help, it is impossible to meet His expectations of the lifestyle He wants us to live.   

A great contrast is given between the Sermon on the Mount and the Law given by Moses. The Law begins with the Ten Commandments, which give the fundamental laws of being in a covenant, which is a promise, made by God to man.  

Warren W. Wiersbe says, “The Sermon on the Mount is one of the most misunderstood messages that Jesus ever gave.” Perhaps Matthew 5:20 can help us have a better understanding of what the Sermon on the Mount means. Jesus said For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the Kingdom of heaven. The scribes and Pharisees believed righteousness was obeying the Law. However, in the text, the word

“righteousness” means “whatever is right or just in itself, whatever conforms to the revealed will of God.”   

The Sermon on the Mount describes the people who have, by grace, passed beyond the law. They have achieved what the Decalogue, which means “ten words,” demands. In the Hebrew language, it is usually translated as the “Ten Commandments.”  

What Does Blessed Mean?

Warren W. Wiersbe said “To most Jewish people, the word ‘blessing’ evoked (particular) images of a long life; wealth; a large healthy family; a full barn; and defeated enemies. God’s covenant with Israel did include such material and physical blessings (read Deuteronomy 28:1-14; Job 1: 1-12; and Proverbs 3:1-10),  for this was how God taught and disciplined them. After all, they were ‘little children’ In the faith, and we teach children through rewards and punishments. However, the life that is truly blessed does not come by receiving things or doing things, but from having a Godlike character.

Remember the story of Nicodemus in the Gospel of John? In John 3:2b-3, Nicodemus said to Jesus, Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher, come from God, for no one can do these signs that you do unless God is with him. Jesus answered him “Truly, Truly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the Kingdom of God.”     

The word “blessed” means something else that is special. “Makarios,” which is the Greek word for “blessed,” describes that joy which has its secret within itself, that oy, which is serene or satisfied, calm, and self-contained. A peace and joy that cannot be taken away by external circumstances. It is completely independent of all the chances and changes in life.   

 The Moody Bible Commentary says the word “blessed” means “deep joy,” usually from knowing one has received divine favour.

Vine’s Complete Expository Dictionary says, “In the beatitudes, the Lord indicates not only the characters that are ‘blessed,’ but the nature of that which is the highest good.”   

Jesus came to earth to give us true happiness. In Matthew chapters five through seven, the Sermon on the Mount tells us how to find it. The Sermon on the Mount tells us the kinds of attitudes needed to bring true happiness to our inner selves.

Blessed is the man who has given God control of his life. Peace and joy live in his soul. This is what the Lord offers those who trust him!  

The kind of righteousness Jesus taught begins internally. A person’s character is very important. How a person conducts himself is determined by his character.

 The Beatitudes are not conditions for entering the Kingdom of God but blessings upon those who have already entered it. Jesus teaches righteousness comes from a Christian character that flows from within.  

What Does It Mean To Be Poor In Spirit?

In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus focused on our attitudes. In Luke 6:20b-21 Jesus said Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God. Blessed  are you who are hungry now, for you shall be satisfied. One of Luke’s favorite themes is the concern Christ had for the poor and the outcasts of society. A comparison of Matthew 5:3 and Luke 6:20 reveals Jesus was concerned with something more important than just material poverty.

The Moody Bible Commentary says the focus on the poor in spirit seems to be recognition of one’s spiritual bankruptcy; those who have nothing of their own to offer God (The Moody Bible Commentary.

Humility is a necessary part of being poor in spirit. In Isaiah 66:2, the prophet writes the words of the Lord. All these things my hand has made, and so all these things came to be, declares the Lord. But this is the one to whom I will look: he who is humble and contrite (repentant) in spirit and trembles (a reverent fear) at my word.  

The Apostle Paul says in Romans 12:3 For by grace, given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned. Because of “grace,” which means the unmerited favor of God, the Apostle Paul became a sincere humble man. “Sober judgment” is a reference to “sound judgment.” In 1 Peter 5:5b the apostle says, clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.  

William Barclay says “Blessed is the man who has realized his utter helplessness, and who has put his whole trust in God will become completely detached from things, for he will know that things have not got it in them to bring happiness or security. He will become completely attached to God. God alone can bring him help and strength. Actual material poverty is not a good thing. The poverty which is blessed is the poverty of spirit, the spirit which realizes its utter lack of resources to meet life, and which finds its help and strength in God.”  

Warren W. Wiersbe also says “To be poor in spirit means to be humble, to (make) a correct estimate of oneself. It does not mean to be “poor-spirited” and have no backbone at all! “Poor in spirit” is the opposite of the world’s attitudes of self-praise and self-assertion. It is not a false humility that says,” I am not worth anything: I can’t do anything!” It is honesty within us: we know ourselves, accept ourselves, and try to be ourselves to the glory of God.

My understanding is that, in the Hebrew language, the “poor in spirit” was used to describe “the humble and the helpless man who put his whole trust in God.”

The Interpreter’s Bible says that “the deepest meaning of the word (poor) is in the realm of prayer and faith. “The poor and needy” mentioned in the Old Testament were those who, when (they were) oppressed by the wicked, still kept a godly conviction. Even when not oppressed, they were like Isaiah in the temple: they saw the King high and lifted, and therefore knew their sin and pleaded for pardon.  

Pride is the root of sin: poverty of spirit is the root of (moral excellence). The blessed bow to Providence. To be poor in spirit is a reward in itself – and in God.

 Without a doubt, the Sermon on the Mount is relevant in today’s world. It describes the kind of character that God expects of all His believers. Warren W. Wiersbe speaks of the four woes all share a common truth: “You take what you want from life, and you pay for it. If you want immediate wealth, fullness, laughter, and popularity, you can get it, but there is a price to pay; that is all you will get. Jesus did not say these things were wrong. He said that being satisfied with them is its judgment”. Wiersbe also says that when people are satisfied with the lesser things of life, the good instead of the best, then their successes add up only as failures. These people are spiritually bankrupt and do not realize it.    

What Is The Kingdom Of Heaven?

The first reference to the kingdom is about the present and it involves suffering for all who enter it. 2 Thessalonians 1:5 says This is evidence of the righteous judgment of God, that you may be considered worthy of the kingdom of God, for which you are also suffering. 

The second reference to the kingdom is about the future. The kingdom’s reward and glory. Matthew 25:34 says Then the King will say to those on his right. “Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the Kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the Kingdom of their Father. He who has ears, let him hear.”   

The Pharisees asked Jesus when the kingdom of God would come. Jesus said the

Kingdom of God is not coming in ways that can be observed, nor will they say

‘look, here it is!’ or ‘There’!’ for behold, the kingdom of God is in the midst of you (Luke17:20b-21)  

 When within our hearts our relationship with God is right our outward conduct

will be right. James 2:17 says . . . faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead. The Apostle Paul says in Ephesians 2:10 for we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. In Matthew 7:21 Jesus says Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the Kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.

 John MacArthur says, “Where the king is and where His rule is acknowledged, is first in the heart of the individual believer there is the Kingdom.”  

The Beatitudes are not pious (or religious) hopes of what shall be; they are not glowing, but nebulous (or vague) prophecies of some future bliss; they all are congratulations on what is. It is a blessedness that exists here and now. We will find its fullness and its consummation in the presence of God.

The Beatitudes are all promises of the Kingdom of God, for to be in the kingdom is to be comforted. To inherit the rebirth or the promised land, to be satisfied, to obtain mercy, to see God, and would be called his sons.   

People who cleave to God in simple trust, are single-minded in their love for Him, and although they are oppressed by the world, they are merciful to others.  

Jesus expects his teaching to be put into practice. Paul and John sum it up in the word “love.” The Beatitudes show that Jesus’ righteousness is more than the sum of the commandments. It is a total attitude of mind, a particular kind of character.

The Young’s Bible Dictionary says Jesus consistently gave special care to those on the fringes of society. You who are hungry Jesus’ disciples who are physically and hungry for God’s help and presence (cf. Matthew 5:6) “who hunger and thirst for righteousness”).

The Young’s Bible Dictionary says Many theologians consider the Kingdom of God and the Kingdom of Heaven as (for all practical purposes the same). God’s Kingdom is here now in the hearts of men and will be established literally on the earth for a time before it becomes eternal (Read Matthew 12:28 and 1 Corinthians. 15:24- 26).

By C. Paul Wooderson

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