In the Bible, in the Gospel of Matthew, we are told the following:
Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 5:3)
As often as I have read this verse, I have been puzzled over its meaning. The questions I ask are:
- What does ‘poor in spirit’ mean?
- Why are the ‘poor in spirit’ blessed?
The term ‘poor in spirit’ cannot be referring to those who are ‘poor’ having lack of money. Many people who are poor financially would not consider themselves as blessed.
Many of us think that we will be blessed and happy if we have plenty of money. But having lots of money does not guarantee blessings or happiness.
We are told that it is the ‘poor in spirit’ who are blessed. But who are the ‘poor in spirit’? and why are they blessed?
After much thought and seeking God on this question, I have come to an understanding of this phrase that seems to answer my questions.
Aware That They Are Needy
The term ‘poor in spirit’ is referring to the certain ones who have come to recognize their own spiritual poverty. That is, they have come to understand their great spiritual impoverishment — their failures, their fears, their brokenness, and their sin. They sense the poverty of their own abilities, because they have become aware of the righteous, holy, and loving God in heaven — and that they would be utterly lost without God’s intervention. They have come into the understanding that God is unlimited in His abilities, and He is infinitely superior to all human wisdom, reasonings, and human abilities!
Regardless of their financial condition, the ‘poor in spirit’ are those who have truly humbled themselves before God, being of a broken and contrite (remorseful; sorrowful) spirit. It is the ‘poor in spirit’ that know they are needy, always in need of God’s mercy and grace.
The ‘poor in spirit’ have stepped down from any confidence in their own strength and goodness. They have determined not the think more highly of themselves than they ought, and they look to Messiah for His mercy, forgiveness, and salvation.
The ‘poor in spirit’ are the ‘needy’ ones that are referred to so often in the Psalms. It is the ‘needy’ souls — the ‘poor in spirit’ — that attract the attention of the Almighty God, Yahuwah Elohim [the Hebrew name for the LORD God].
Let’s look at five Scripture promises of Yahuwah [the LORD] to those who are ‘needy’:
For the needy shall not always be forgotten: the expectation of the poor shall not perish for ever. (Psalm 9:18)
For the oppression of the poor, for the sighing of the needy, now will I arise, says Yahuwah [the LORD]; I will set (place, put) him in safety from him that puffs (scoffs) at him. (Psalm 12:5)
But I am poor and needy; yet Yahuwah [the Lord] thinks upon me (considers and values me): You are my help and my deliverer; make no tarrying, O my God. (Psalm 40:17)
For He (Yahuwah) shall deliver the needy when he cries; the poor also, and him that has no helper. He (Yahuwah) shall spare the poor and needy, and (Yahuwah) shall save the souls of the needy. (Psalm 72:12-13)
He (Yahuwah) raises up the poor out of the dust, and (Yahuwah) lifts the needy out of the dunghill (fifth). (Psalm 113:7)
From the above five Scripture verses, we see these five promises:
- The needy are not forgotten.
- The needy are placed in safety.
- The needy are thought upon, considered, and valued.
- The needy are delivered and saved.
- The needy are lifted up out of filth.
These promises are for ‘the poor in spirit’ — the ones who know and accept their spiritual poverty. They are keenly aware of their great need for the mercy and lovingkindness of the Almighty Elohim — Yahuwah [the LORD], the Maker of all things.
The Worst of Men
One example in the Scriptures of someone who is needy and ‘poor in spirit’ can be seen in the story of the Pharisee (a religious leader), and the Tax Collector (a man who was considered the worst of men, and contemptible).
Notice the attitudes between the two different men:
He (Messiah Yahushua/Christ Jesus) also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and treated others with contempt:
“Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector.
The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed thus: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.’
But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’
I tell you, this man (the tax collector) went down to his house justified, rather than the other.
For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.” (Luke 18:9-14)
Yahushua [the Hebrew name for Jesus] was speaking this parable to those who trust in their own righteousness, but treat others with contempt.
The Pharisee was full of pride in his own self-righteousness. He talked about all of his own good works and deeds, but he was oblivious to his own spiritual poverty. He thought he needed nothing. But what do the Scriptures say about such people?
Because you say, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and know not that you are wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked. (Revelation 3:17)
But we are all as an unclean thing, and all our (own) righteousnesses are as filthy rags; and we all do fade as a leaf; and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away. (Isaiah 64:6)
Let us remember that our own righteous deeds are as filthy rags in the sight of God. Trusting in and relying on our own goodness, our own good works, is an attitude that reveals an arrogance that Yahuwah abhors, for it shows a complete lack of dependence on God’s righteousness, and His mercy and forgiveness (Proverbs 16:5).
The tax collector, on the other hand, was fully aware of his need for Yahuwah’s mercy. He had no illusions about his spiritual condition. He knew he was a sinner — poor and unworthy of mercy!
The tax collector had chosen to humble himself. Thus he understood the vast difference between his miserable spiritual condition and the awesome holiness of the living, Almighty God! He knew he needed the great and tender mercy of Yahuwah Elohim [the LORD God].
Because the tax collector humbled himself and admitted his great need, then God blessed him. God accepted him and justified him — forgave him, supported him, and lifted him up.
The tax collector’s attitude reveals what it means to be ‘poor in spirit’.
He Dwells With the Poor in Spirit
As we saw in The Key to the Holy Spirit’s Guidance, humility is the first and necessary step to recognizing and repenting of (turning away from) our prideful attitudes, behaviours, and our disobedience to the heavenly Father’s Words. The tax collector was truly humble. He had a broken and contrite (sorrowful) spirit in his cry to God for mercy to a poor sinner.
This kind of spirit is what the Almighty God is looking for! This kind of heart-attitude will receive Yahuwah’s blessings — His mercy and His restoration and salvation:
… to this man I (Yahuwah/the LORD) will look, even to him that is poor and of a contrite (sorrowful) spirit, and trembles at My Word. (Isaiah 66:2b)
Yahuwah [the LORD] is near to them that are of a broken heart; and saves such as be of a contrite spirit. (Psalm 34:18)
… a broken and a contrite heart, O God, You will not despise. (Psalm 51:17b)
For thus says the high and lofty One Who inhabits eternity, Whose name is Holy; I dwell in the high and holy place, and also (I dwell) with him that is of a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones. (Isaiah 57:15)
As these Scriptures reveal, Yahuwah Elohim has great promises for the humble, the contrite, those who are needy — the poor in spirit!
Humility – The Only Pathway
May it be that you and I would be willing to recognize and acknowledge any pride or dependence on our own self-righteousness, and cleanse ourselves from such attitudes. Let us ‘clothe ourselves’ with humility … Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” (1Peter 5:5b)
It is only through the goodness and righteousness of our Saviour, Messiah Yahushua, that we can come to Yahuwah’s throne of grace and mercy to help us in our time of need, when we become aware of our need. It is the truly humble and needy ones who are eternally thankful for the mercy, the hope, and the salvation offered through Messiah’s sacrifice on the cross. This is the only pathway to restoration, healing, and salvation (1John 2:1-2; John 14:6).
Let us therefore diligently seek to be among those who maintain this precious and blessed ‘poor in spirit‘ heart-attitude — for theirs is the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 5:3)!
- Preparing Our Heart to Seek God
- Only The Wise Shall Understand
- Turning From Darkness to Light
- He Has Called You by Your Name
- Messiah: The Prophet Sent From God
- Derek Prince Sermon: The Two Banquets (Transcript)
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