“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Matthew 5:3
Earlier in his gospel, Matthew said Jesus went about everywhere proclaiming the good news of the kingdom, or rule, of God. Jesus was saying I have good news – the rule of God is here. Now. In me.
Now Jesus says blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs IS the kingdom of heaven. In other words, if you are poor in spirit then my kingdom and all the blessings of my rule are yours.
The rule of Jesus brings incredible blessings – infinitely greater than this world’s blessings. The kingdom of God brings forgiveness of sins, friendship and fellowship with God, freedom from the power and guilt of sin, and the power of the Holy Spirit to please and enjoy God. The kingdom of God brings access to the throne of grace, God’s protection and provision and the wonderful promise that someday we’ll see Jesus’ face.
But everyone doesn’t automatically receive all this. We must be poor in spirit. So what does that mean?
To be poor in spirit means we recognize we are spiritually bankrupt and need God’s help.
“Poverty of spirit, a consciousness of one’s emptiness and need, results from the work of the Holy Spirit within the human heart. It issues from the painful discovery that all my righteousnesses are as filthy rags (Isa. 64:6). It follows my being awakened to the fact that my very best performances are unacceptable (yea, an abomination) to the thrice Holy One. Thus one who is poor in spirit realizes that he is a hell-deserving sinner.” –AW Pink
In other words, to be poor in spirit means we realize we don’t deserve God’s kingdom. That apart from Jesus, we are spiritually impoverished and have nothing to offer God. We must receive God’s kingdom as a gift, never as something we’ve earned. This is the kind of attitude that attracts God’s attention.
For thus says the One who is high and lifted up, who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy: “I dwell in the high and holy place, and also with him who is of a contrite and lowly spirit, to revive the spirit of the lowly, and to revive the heart of the contrite. Isaiah 57:15
Look who this passage says God is – the one who is high and lifted up – infinitely exalted above his creation. He inhabits eternity – he has no beginning and no end. His name – his being – is infinitely, absolutely Holy. Yet this unimaginably glorious God dwells with “him who is of a contrite and lowly spirit.” Contrite means genuinely sorry for sin. The high and holy one loves to be with those who realize they are spiritually empty and are truly remorseful for their sins.
This is “the opposite of that haughty, self-assertive, and self-sufficient disposition that the world so much admires and praises” AW Pink. The world says think highly of yourself. The world says, “Thank you that I’m not like other men – sinners, losers – like that tax collector bowed down and beating his breast in the back of the church. God, you sure are lucky to have me.”
To this person God says, “No thanks. I’m going to the back of the church to welcome that guy who recognizes how much he needs my mercy and help. In fact I’m going to give him my whole kingdom.”