September 27, 1994
“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”
Those words, the first of the Beatitudes, were framed and hanging on the classroom walls when my children were in elementary school. This famous passage from the Bible describes people who know a particular kind of blessedness. It includes great inner peace and frequently amazes others who do not have it.
“Poor in spirit” is not a description of material poverty. It is not about being weak-kneed, fearful, cowardly, or without the ability to stand up against evil.
Poor in spirit is recognizing and admitting spiritual bankruptcy. It is realizing that before God, you do not have a good deed to stand on. It is knowing that sin has the upper hand and because of it, there is nothing that can give you any merit before your Maker and Judge.
Anyone who has this quality will never boast of their own goodness. As far as they are concerned, they have none. But how can this be? Everyone knows we “all have some good in us.”
If that is true, it is because God made us in His own image. Noble thoughts or any capacity for decency is there because we were supposed to think and act like Him. Unfortunately, we seldom see God’s reflection in other people. What happened to it?
The Bible says sin has muddied His image in us and we need redemption so it can be restored. Note, however, that sin is like crossing a line. It does not matter how far across the line a person is but on which side of the line they stand. Each of us is either in the kingdom of God or the kingdom of sin.
Certainly some have gone farther on the wrong side of the line than others. Some are good people who merely go their own way, but without Christ. Others are proud and selfish, hurting others and are not quite so popular. Still others do evil things such as tell lies, break laws, commit incest, or brutally abuse others.
The point Scripture makes is that none of us, without faith in Christ, can be on God’s side of the line. No matter how close we stand, we still do not consistently choose good. Sadly, even goodness will not get us over the line.
The people who realize this and grieve over it are called “poor in spirit.” God says they are “blessed” but this truth is not much of a blessing to everyone else. Proud people feel they are okay... or at least as good as other people. They feel no need for repentance and forgiveness. Selfish people are not interested either because crossing the line is a call from God to turn from personal cravings. No one can serve two masters. They must choose either themselves or the King of Kings.
Evil people are the least interested. For them, sin is too much fun, or too profitable. But God says no one can come to Him (in honesty) and retain their sinfulness. If they do, He will cleanse it out of their lives. For that reason, people who are the farthest distance from the line usually prefer to stay where they are.
God calls the poor in spirit “blessed” because they have discovered the lie, misconception and emptiness in pride, selfishness and a sinful lifestyle. They are no longer interested in fooling anyone with false, inflated images of themselves.
As the verse says, the poor in spirit are also blessed because they are heirs to a different kingdom, one where they are satisfied with God’s grace and never get enough of His righteousness. It is a kingdom where He restores His subjects to image He intended.