What does the concept “poor in spirit” really mean?

Thursday, January 20, 2011, Part 1

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:3).

IDEA: “Poor in spirit” commends those who realize their destitute condition before God.

PURPOSE: To help listeners appreciate why Jesus commends the “poor in spirit.”

When we say that someone is “counter-cultural,” what do we mean?

Is being “counter-cultural” positive or negative?

Do you believe that Jesus was counter-cultural?

I. What do you make of the first beatitude that states that “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven”?

We tend to dismiss this beatitude as “God Talk,” and we don’t take it seriously. Whatever it means, it doesn’t apply to us in our society.

Is Jesus glorifying poverty?  Is there any relationship between being poor in pocketbook and being poor in spirit?

Those who are financially poor live with a sense of desperate need and dependence on others. The spiritually poor have nothing to commend them to God.

Are all poor people godly? Many devout people are poor rather than wealthy.

Is it necessarily a blessing to be poor? Is there a necessary blessing in being wealthy? (Proverbs 30: 7-10).

Is Jesus commending a weakness of character (mean spiritedness)?

Do you think that “poverty of spirit” is an inferiority complex or self-hatred?

Does it mean “I have no value” or “I am insignificant in this great universe”? Is that really biblical?

II.  “Poor in spirit” is talking about our relation to God.

It is the opposite of arrogant self–confidence which dominates and rides over other people and treats God as irrelevant.

III. What then characterizes those who are “poor in spirit”?

Those who are “poor in spirit” gladly cast themselves on God’s grace.

Poor in spirit is the personal acknowledgment of our spiritual bankruptcy before God.

It is the tax collector standing in the temple before God and beating on his breast saying, “God, be merciful to me, the sinner” (Luke 18:9-14).

It is an honest confession that we are sinful and utterly without the moral virtues that we need to commend us to God.

It’s the deepest form of repentance. It acknowledges our desperate need for God.

At the very beginning of the Sermon we discover that we do not have the spiritual resources in ourselves to put Jesus’ teachings into practice. You and I cannot fulfill God’s standards by ourselves.

Blessed are those who realize that they are spiritually bankrupt. Much of the rest of the sermon is designed to rip away from us the self-delusion that we are something when we have nothing; it aims to produce in us a genuine poverty of spirit.