Over the next few weeks, we are going to take a look at Matthew 5:3-12. We will look at the Beatitudes one at a time and study what each of them mean.
The Sermon on the Mount is the first recorded teaching of Jesus’ ministry, and he starts with the Beatitudes, “Blessed are those who…”. We could read each one individually or together. We could take them at face value and say that Jesus was just telling the Jews how to live. But what if we dug deeper? What if Jesus spoke these things for everyone? What if there was a reason He said what He did and in the order that He did?
What does ‘blessed’ mean?
“Blessed” means “happy, fortunate, blissful”. True, lasting happiness comes only from God. Only when we acknowledge God as King, accept Him as Savior, and submit to Him as Lord can we have true happiness. Apart from God, there is no lasting happiness.
So let’s take a look at the first Beatitude.
“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” – Matthew 5:3
What does it mean to be poor in spirit?
This word “poor” comes from the greek word ptochos. This means someone who is a beggar, someone with no wealth, no talents, no honor or respect, completely powerless, and helpless. This is someone who can do nothing to change his status. His only option is to beg, and he is ashamed of it.
To be “poor in spirit” means that you recognize your own spiritual poverty. It’s when you realize that you can do nothing eternal on your own. You can do nothing to earn your way into heaven. You realize that you are wretched and only God can save you.
Pride is a big thing that will keep us from recognizing our “spiritual bankruptcy”. In Luke 18:9-14, Jesus tells the Parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector. Both men went to the temple to pray to God. The Pharisee exalted himself in his prayer. He believed in his own self-righteousness. The Tax Collector acknowledged that he was a sinner and asked God for mercy.
“You may as well expect fruit to grow without a tree, as the other graces to grow without this one.” – John MacArthur, talking about Matt. 5:3
This first Beatitudes is very important. Until we are poor in spirit, we can not live out any of the other Beatitudes. All other blessings flow from this one. We must first recognize our brokenness and need for Christ’s salvation.
What does “theirs is the kingdom of heaven” mean?
If we are “poor in spirit”, then Matthew 5:3 says that “…theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” “Theirs” means belonging only to those who are “poor in spirit”, and “is” means it’s happening now. When we accept that we are broken and need Christ, we become citizens of heaven. We become His children. Because we are subjects of the King, all of the kingdom’s blessings are ours.
So, the first thing we must do is realize that we can’t enter the kingdom of heaven on our own. We can’t be perfect. No one qualifies (Romans 3:23). We can’t do anything to earn our salvation. We are poor and broken, and only Christ can save us.
Once we realize only Christ can forgive all our sins, and we accept Him as Lord and Savior, we receive the blessing of being called children of God (1 John 3:1). We will one day spend eternity in heaven with Him. Until then, God gives us the Holy Spirit as soon as we repent of our sins and believe in Him so that He can teach us (John 16:13, 1 John 2:27). No earthly thing or earthly trial could change that. No earthly thing can take away our eternal promise in Christ.
Your sister in Christ,