Poor in Spirit? No Thank You!

Jesus was great at challenging the status quo of His day. This is what we find Jesus doing as He preaches the Sermon on the Mount. As Matthew records Jesus’ sermon, we see him continually challenging the way people thought about various topics. The amazing thing is that Jesus continues to challenge the way we think about things today with that same sermon.

 Jesus begins His sermon with the Beatitudes which describe mindsets that we are to have as Christians, if we are going to be a part of His Kingdom. We need to understand what Jesus is saying about our attitude in each beatitude if we are going to be in God’s kingdom. But in this devotional, we will just look at the first one.

 Let’s read the beatitudes in Matthew 5:1-11.

Jesus begins the beatitudes talking about the poor in spirit. He says, “blessed are the poor in spirit…” The word blessed is often defined as happy, but there is more to it than simple happiness. A better way of understanding the word blessed is happy because of God’s favor.[1] It is odd in our culture to think about the words happy and poor in the same sentence. Yet Jesus says that we will be blessed if we are poor in spirit. Our culture teaches that to be happy you must be rich in every regard. The world would have us think, to be happy means having lots of money, all the expensive toys, the nicest phone, and all these things are evidence of God’s favor. To be happy and poor seems like such an impossibility by the world’s standards. What could Jesus possibly mean? Let’s stop and think about this.

Think Break – Discuss the following:

Do you think Jesus is talking about being financially poor?

What do you think Jesus means by poor in spirit?

Poor in spirit doesn’t mean that we are financially poor, yet this is still an unusual concept by the world’s way of thinking. Certainly, Jesus doesn’t want us or anyone to be unable to meet their own basic needs, due to lack of finances. So, what does it mean to be poor in spirit and why would Jesus want us to pursue this? A person who is poor in spirit, recognizes they have nothing to give to God and are completely dependent on Him. Jesus’ desire is for us to have a humble attitude and recognize our own spiritual desperation.

This is still opposite of what the world would recommend. The world teaches us to be fully independent, yet Jesus wants us to be fully dependent upon the Father. Those who don’t follow Christ like to focus on their achievements and what they can accomplish. However, our own accomplishments will never lead us to what God wants to give us. We can never receive the grace God has offered us until we recognize our own spiritual poverty. Jesus says that those who are poor in spirit will receive the Kingdom of Heaven. Once our poverty is recognized we can than seek the wealth of God’s grace and enter His kingdom.

To have the Kingdom of God is an incredible gift from God that no one deserves. The opportunity for salvation and entrance into God’s Kingdom is the greatest thing that we could ever be offered. But it is no thanks to our own ability or effort. The only thing that our own effort will lead to is our own demise. When this reality is recognized, we then can accept our spiritual poverty and dependence on God’s grace.

Scriptures to Consider:

Romans 3:23-24

Ephesians 2:1-10

Acts 22:12-16

Think about or Discuss the following:

Do you see yourself as spiritually poor or have you been trying to earn Heaven?

Why is it difficult for us to consider spiritual poverty a good thing?

What is pride? How does pride make it hard to be poor in spirit?

Will you pray and thank God for allowing you to have the hope of Heaven?

If you recognize your spiritual poverty and want to know what to do next keep reading!

There is a point in everyone’s life when they recognize that they are spiritually poor and in great need of a Savior. When this happens, often people ask a question, “What now?” or “So, what do I do to be saved?” These are great and important questions to ask. If you find yourself asking this question, I hope you find the next few words that I share to be beneficial and from the word of God! In Acts 2, Peter convinces a great crowd of people (Acts 2:14), that Jesus was the Son of God and that they were in desperate need of being saved from their sins (Acts 2:36-37). This crowd of people who now believe that Jesus is the son of God and recognize their spiritual poverty ask that important question, “What shall we do?” (Acts 2:37), Peter answers “repent and be baptized everyone of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:38). Peter told them that they must repent (or turn away from) the sin in their life and then they must be baptized (or immersed in water), for the purpose of having their sins washed away. This is the pattern we must follow if we want our sins forgiven. Once we come to believe in Jesus Christ and recognize how poor in spirit we are, we must repent, turning away from the sin in our life, confess that Jesus is the Son of God (Romans 10:9-10) and be baptized for the forgiveness of our sins. It is only then that we can be granted entrance into God’s family.

I hope you will look at each of the verses used and recognize what you must do to be granted salvation. God’s word is direct and most helpful in this matter (2 Timothy 3:16-17).

Further Study:

Acts 8:26-40

Acts 21:37-22:21

Romans 6:1-4

Morris, Leon. The Gospel According to Matthew. Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1992. Pages 94-97.


[1] See Morris page 95 for a definition of “blessed” used in this context of scripture.

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