How can being 'poor in spirit' be a good thing?

How would you respond if someone said to you, “you're no different to anyone else!”

This person knows you’re a Christian and has observed your life for some months and this is their opinion of you. Would you be disappointed? Offended? Aren't Christians meant to be different from the world?

In this series, we will be looking at a famous passage of the Bible known as the beatitudes. These eight statements, made by Jesus in the sermon on the mount [Matthew 5:1-10], are some of the most shocking and disarming words Jesus spoke. They teach us his way of living, the characteristics, and priorities which should be evidence of our being his followers.

How many people would associate being poor with being blessed? It's clear that Jesus isn’t speaking about money here, but the idea of being poor in any sense would probably not make you think you were blessed. So what does it mean for someone to be poor in spirit? How can Jesus call that blessed?

To be poor in spirit is to be humble in spirit. When we come to God, we must realize our sin before him and our spiritual emptiness.

We have nothing to offer God. We have nothing to be proud of, nothing that could make us good enough for God to welcome us because his standard is holiness. The only way for us to approach God is for him to step into our mess and lift us out of it. It reminds me of the line in the hymn Rock of Ages: “nothing in my hands I bring, simply to the cross I cling.”

The prophet Isaiah understood his own spiritual poverty when he said:

‘Woe to me!’ I cried. ‘I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the Lord Almighty.'” [Isaiah 6:5],

and Job demonstrated that he was poor in spirit when he said:

My ears had heard of you but now my eyes have seen you. Therefore I despise myself

and repent in dust and ashes.’” [Job 42:5-6].

What made the difference for them? Isaiah says “my eyes have seen the King,” and Job: "now my eyes have seen you.” - the source of their lowliness is seeing God in his power and holiness.

To be poor in spirit is to see God for who he is, and

know we are nothing by comparison.

We need to recognise that we are sinners, and God is Holy - so we deserve his judgement. But if we are poor in spirit we will not get his judgement! When we come to God with empty hands we are driven to repent, like Job, and receive God's totally free and undeserved blessing. The poor in spirit get the kingdom of heaven; Jesus says "theirs is the kingdom of heaven". The kingdom belongs to those who are poor in spirit.

So what is the kingdom of heaven like? In the book of Revelation Jesus describes something of what it is like to be there:

"If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me. To the one who is victorious, I will give the right to sit with me on my throne, just as I was victorious and sat down with my Father on his throne." [Revelation 3:20-21].

The kingdom of heaven is enjoying fellowship with the Lord Jesus. Jesus says he will come and eat with that person - such a lovely image of intimate fellowship and communion. He also speaks of them having the right to sit with him on the throne. Just take a moment to allow that to sink in.

When we repent, turn from our sinful ways, and turn towards Jesus, trusting him alone and in nothing of our own for our salvation, we are given the right to sit with him on the throne.

If that doesn’t blow your mind, I don’t know what will!

Remember, it’s not those who are most powerful, prominent, and successful who are given this right, it is those who are poor in spirit. Those who know they have nothing to offer God are given everything by him. But being part of the kingdom of heaven is worth more than anything we could ever own, and worth losing everything for. Having the saving reign of Christ in our lives is that valuable!

The beatitudes are challenging. They are meant to be. Jesus' way of living is very different from how the world says we should live - but the world does not offer what Jesus does.

This post is taken from the discussion at a recent women's breakfast. to find out more or join in with the next one, please get in touch.

All Bible references quoted from (c) 2011 New International Version