The Poor in Spirit
by Rev. Larry Eddings | March 26, 2019It would have been great to be seated on the side of the mountain in Galilee and listen to the Master Teacher and Lord, Jesus, when he began to tell what life is like in God’s Kingdom. It would have been a life-impacting and life-changing experience. In fact, it still is!
The Church of Jesus Christ will forever be indebted to the work of the Holy Spirit of God speaking through the teachings of Jesus. We will also be indebted to the disciple Matthew for recording for us, in simple and uncomplicated terms, how Jesus taught what it is like to live life in the Kingdom of God.
The “Sermon on the Mount” teachings [Matthew 5] begin with “The Beatitudes.” “Blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” Matthew 5:3
Some translations of Scripture substitute the word ‘happy’ for the word ‘blessed.’ However, happy does not capture the true and real meaning. Happiness is emotion-based and is often dependent upon the circumstances that are happening around us. Happiness comes and goes depending upon whether the circumstances result in satisfaction or dissatisfaction. Happiness is much like the surface of water in a lake or ocean. It is greatly influenced by the way the wind moves upon it. Sometimes it is present, sometimes it is not. Happiness can be influenced by whether or not you get your way.
“Blessed” has to do with the ultimate well-being and distinctive spiritual joy of people who experience living in the kingdom of God. That joy is not moved by a person’s emotional state - good or bad. That joy is much like the deep down currents in the ocean that are influenced only by the pull of a celestial planet. It is a constant and moves only with the tide – the pull of God’s love. The blessed person is totally aware of the quality of joy about which Jesus desired for his disciples, the joy that he had in his own life, a joy that enabled him to meet any and all circumstances – even the cross, and not lose it.
When he said “blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the kingdom of heaven,” he was talking about those who are not spiritually arrogant, proud or self-sufficient. The poor in spirit are persons who know that they cannot earn their salvation or a place in God’s kingdom. It is a sheer gift of God’s grace and not a reward for their good life or their good deeds. Their good life and good deeds are the consequence of receiving the salvation that God has freely given to them.
The lesson for us is to acknowledge that our salvation is a gift of God’s unmerited favor and then to humbly give thanks to the God of our Salvation with humble and contrite hearts. The apostle Paul draws on this fact when he says, “It is by grace you have been saved, through faith, - and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God – not by works, so that no one can boast.” Ephesians 2:8
If we acknowledge that salvation is a gracious gift from God and is something that we have not earned, we are to be recognized as being “poor in spirit.” And, as Jesus taught, we are blessed and the kingdom of heaven is ours – in the here and now. Jesus said that the kingdom of heaven is near. In fact is among us and within us – especially within those who recognize that we are “poor in spirit.” LLE