Quickie Peek: Poverty of spirit is not something a person can either fake or force, yet someone who has it knows they have it. How? By what I call their psychic pain. We live in an era of “me-ism.” The world sells us the concept that we must build ourselves up in our own eyes. But when our world is not right, either within or without, we suffer, because we hurt. Yet our internal world can never be right, because the world itself is not right. That’s when Jesus comes along and says, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 5:3)
Scripture: NIV Matthew 5:3 “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
The Meat: So is Jesus saying that pain is good? Or that we should cultivate pain, as certain medieval monks used to do? Not at all. Pain hurts, and the hurt tells us that it is not good. But the poverty of spirit which results from a pain-filled life is good, not good in and of itself, but good because it is a door, a gateway to what Christ offers–the kingdom of heaven. Let’s look at how this works.
First, the setting. We are created; God is not. God is the life-giver; we are the life-receivers. But Jesus as man is also God, and God the Father ordained that Jesus, who is God-in-flesh, or God incarnate, should have life in himself to give to others. He alone of all humanity has life independently in himself, and this life is his to give to whomever he chooses to give it. (1) He chooses to give eternal life to those who are poor in spirit. That is God’s choice, not ours.
But poverty of spirit can be a difficult concept to grasp. It is the opposite of spiritual pride. Spiritual pride manifests itself as independence: I don’t need anyone’s help, because I can do this myself. Or, worse yet, I don’t need God’s help, because I am god, or, I am as good as God, or as some might even say, I am better than God. Spiritual pride is Satan’s manifesto, but Satan is a liar and the father of lies. (John 8:44)
Poverty of spirit comes through failure: failure in life, failure to overcome pain, failure in relationships, failure to achieve happiness, just plain failure. People who persistently fail tend not to have high ideas of themselves, but to think of themselves in lowly words. Luke 18:9-14 provides a good example of the difference between spiritual poverty and spiritual pride. The spiritually poor man, “…would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner,'” while the spiritually rich man congratulated himself on being better than others.
Once again, pain of any kind is not good, and it signals that something is wrong. The psychic pain that results from a sense of spiritual poverty also is not good in and of itself, and it, too, signals that something is wrong. But a spiritually poor person is one who realizes, “I am what is wrong!” Jesus calls this spiritually poor person “blessed.” How so? Because those who are spiritually poor shall receive the kingdom of heaven.
That is because a spiritually poor person is in perfect position to cry out to Jesus, or to God the Father, for help. If he cries to the Father, the Father will point him to the Son. The Son, Jesus, has life in himself, abundant life, to give to everyone and anyone who cries to him for help: “Lord, help me! I need your help!” And the good news is that God always hears and responds to such a cry for help. (Acts 2:21; Romans 10:13)
Inexpressible blessings of peace and joy await the one who lays down her arms, her weapons of life, and submits to God the Father and God the Son. These blessings completely overwhelm the pain and sadness of life itself. Although actual conditions and circumstances may or may not change, a new Person has come upon the scene in the unfathomably deep intimacy, support, love, and blessing of Relationship. This is the “kingdom of heaven” Jesus grants to the blessedly poor in spirit. And the kingdom is so wonderful that those who pass through its gates willingly offer, as a sacrifice of praise and love, allegiance to their Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, eternally.
1 RSV John 10:10b I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.
NIV John 17:2 For you granted him authority over all people that he might give eternal life to all those you have given him.
John 6:37, 51; 10:28; 17:2.
See also Derek Prince, Bought with Blood: The Divine Exchange at the Cross, (Grand Rapids: Chosen Books, 2000), 75. He mentions 1 Corinthians 15:45.