poor in spirit

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” Matthew 5.3

My church is going through a series titled “The Blessed Life.” What does it mean to be blessed?  And with this week’s verse, what did Jesus mean by “pour in spirit?” What are the characteristics of someone who is poor in spirit?

First, let me ask you this: what comes to your mind when you hear the word “poor”?

I picture the multitude of men, women and children I see on the streets of downtown Minneapolis; most of whom are toting signs. My heart aches for them, leaving me wanting to help and yet, holding back based on the mere fact that I’m a single woman in a big city.

I also picture humility. Not in the sense of being humiliated (embarrassed, thinking less of myself), but of thinking of myself less.

Poor :: impoverished, poverty, in need

My pastor pointed out that each of these beatitudes is a characteristic of being a follower of Jesus. These characteristics naturally happen if you truly follow him with all of your heart, soul, mind and strength. That thought alone was an eye opener for me, a girl who, must like the rest of our known world, grew up in a church where the Christian life was based on works rather than faith. Talk about a liberating truth!

To be poor in spirit is to realize that nothing we have is worth more than the kingdom of God. Knowing this, we become willing to part with anything we have if it hinders us from receiving the kingdom.

There are characteristics of those who are poor in spirit. Like with anything when it comes to following Jesus, this is not a checklist you have to go through to be saved. Works will not save you. Only faith…faith that He is good; faith that He is, was and always will be. Jesus already paid the price. Tim Keller put the gospel so beautifully: “We are most sinful and flawed in ourselves than we ever dared believe, yet at the very same time we are more loved and accepted in Jesus Christ than we ever dared hope.”

If you Google the topic, you’ll get millions of hits and not all of them are based on the truth that can only be found in God’s Word.  The following are some of those characteristics, as we discussed at church on Sunday and again during our weekly Life Group meeting, and others I stumbled on during my own personal study of this one verse.

The poor in spirit:

  • Focus not on themselves but on glorifying God and ministering to others.
  • Focus on Christ; to be like him is their highest goal. It’s taking on the attitude that they are poor apart from Christ and he is their greatest need.
  • Don’t complain. They accept God’s sovereign control over their circumstances and trust that he will provide.
  • See the good in others; recognizing their own weaknesses and appreciate the strengths of others.
  • Spend time in prayer – picture a beggar begging. They find themselves in God’s presence on a constant basis, seeking his strength and blessing.
  • Will follow Christ based on his terms – filled with praise and gratitude for the wonder of his grace.

Remember, you are more sinful and flawed in yourself that you ever dared believe and, at the very same time, more loved and accepted than you ever dared hope. That statement alone has the strength to bring me to my knees. Wow…

Being poor in spirit is directly related to your faith. Without it you could never come to him, because believing that he is and that he will reward those who seek him.

We must truly believe that he is more valuable than anything we have. Without Jesus, we don’t know what it means to be full. God created us with a need to be filled by him and him alone but we constantly seek fulfillment in the material things of this world, including relationships with other human beings. We’re always hungry. We are always craving something more. Until we see our own poverty, we will never see the value of Jesus Christ. Believing that truth leads to humlity.

We must be humble when it comes to standing before God. We cannot be self-satisfied or proud of our actions….there is no room in a heart that contains self-righteousness for Jesus.

As far as the blessing of the kingdom of heaven goes…I cannot fathom it. I must sacrifice myself (give myself up) for him to gain so much more. I struggle with that concept just like anyone else. I don’t want to wait. We live in a fast-paced, give-it-to-me-now culture with the world at our fingertips….but waiting brings the greatest reward and, if we take Jesus at his word, that reward will be more than we can fathom with our finite minds.

Remember my statement earlier about my upbringing? This truth has been setting me free, piece by piece/moment by moment, from the bondage of legalism. I can’t make myself poor in spirit. Only Jesus, in his infinite mercy and grace, can…through the conditioning of my heart.

Until next week…

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