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  • Writer's picturePhil Rains

Blessed are the Poor In Spirit (part 3)

Updated: Jul 14, 2020

When Jesus began to speak to the multitude, He knew there was a large percentage of the people who were there expecting, and some even demanding, a revolution. They were looking for a radical change in politics, in economics, in the culture in general. They were looking for an overthrow of the Roman rule, by rebellion, if necessary. They were anticipating the establishment of Messiah’s Kingdom.

But, Jesus steps into the middle of all the noise, of all those expectations and begins to speak, not about changes in the culture or the political and economic landscape, but about changes in their lives. He began to talk of characteristics that ran counter to the normal way of thinking. He would speak of characteristics that, at best, were impossible to fulfill in one’s life.

He was speaking to all types of people. Rich and poor, to the successful, to the failures, the educated and illiterate, conquerors and the defeated, all races and creeds. To this cross section of humanity, this miniature world, Jesus offers an ascending life. He was offering this life to all, no one excluded, no part two, no addendum, everyone the same.

He began to lay out a progressive process, “from glory to glory” (2 Corinthians 3:18), by which the appearance of the Kingdom would be recognized and defined in the lives of His followers.

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

The beginning place of this life would be “poor in spirit”. Right from the beginning, He presents an idea that totally flies in the face of convention. How can you be “poor in spirit “ and blessed at the same time? And besides, who wants to be “poor in spirit”?

Look at our world today. We live in a world that is driven by self confidence, self empowerment, self assertion and self promotion. The competitive nature of our culture requires what’s bigger, stronger, smarter and louder.

These things themselves, in certain situations or environments, are not necessarily bad or wrong. But when it comes to an encounter with the Almighty, it really isn’t the best approach.

When Jesus spoke of the poor in spirit, He was not talking about being  spiritually poor,—or being bereft of spirituality. Nor was He equating poor in spirit with being diffident, nervous, weak or lacking courage. I’ve known some folks through the years who were self-effacing, some even self-deprecating, but were not poor in spirit. All that did was to generate some kind of false humility, which is perhaps one of the greatest forms of arrogance,  and leads to self righteousness.

 What poor in spirit does mean is a brokenness of heart, a deep sense of personal unworthiness. In scripture, whenever you see people come into God’s presence, they usually come away transformed. When they saw themselves in light of God’s holiness and righteousness, the only thing that was acceptable was a total and complete change. It happened with Gideon, with Moses, with Isaiah, with Paul and with Peter.

Repentance is usually the outcome of such an encounter with God.

Repentance, in its deepest sense, is a response of a sinful spirit to a holy God saying, “I am a sinner, and I need your help, for I cannot help myself.” It is when we recognize our inability to stand before a holy and righteous God. That is where the poor in spirit reside.

Jesus, in His sermon, was speaking of recognizing the condition of our lives before God. Poor in spirit speaks of complete and utter dependence on the grace of God. But before grace can be fully seen and understood to be truly gracious, it must be considered within the context of our own unworthiness, our own sinfulness, our own lack of anything to offer God.

Anytime there is a need for transformation of character in someone’s life, there is that moment when they realize that they are powerless to do it themselves, that they do not have the resources, or the discipline, to bring about such a change. All of a sudden they feel the vulnerability of NOT being self sufficient, of NOT being in control. They realize that something or someone bigger than themselves must step into the situation. It’s at that moment when one understands what Jesus is saying when He spoke of the “poor in spirit”. It seems to be another one of those kingdom contradictions, that before you can be filled, you must first be emptied.

“Poor in spirit “ is the beginning point of this extraordinary, blessed life to which Jesus has called us. It moves from “glory to glory” and “adds to”(2 Peter 1:2-8) our lives continually as we submit to the work of the Holy Spirit.

But blessedness cannot be fully experienced until true, humble submission is felt. That is the point where repentance and forgiveness meet, the place where “poor in spirit” becomes manifest.

“Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of Heaven.”

It carries with it both blessing and reward.

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