Poor in Spirit: Matthew 5:3
““3) Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” ‭‭Matthew‬ ‭5:3‬
As Jesus begins to teach the beatitudes, He immediately exposes the proud and calloused hearts of the Pharisees and the religious elite. They looked good outwardly, but inwardly they were full of sin, self, pride and self deception.
The quality behind this first beatitude is difficult to describe. It might better be transliterated as “Blessed are the humble in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”
I believe Jesus was elaborating a quality taught in Isaiah 57:15. It says; “For thus says the high and exalted One Who lives forever, whose name is Holy, “I dwell on a high and holy place, And also with the contrite and lowly of spirit In order to revive the spirit of the lowly And to revive the heart of the contrite.”
This quality goes beyond being humble. “Poor in spirit” captures the idea, but does not communicate very well in English. It is hard to capture the meaning of lowly, contrite, poor in spirit and sincerely humbly.
Isaiah 66:1-2 returns to this concept and seems to connect it to the domain of God. Jesus may have referred to this domain as “the kingdom of heaven.” As we shall see, these two verses are profound.
“1) Thus says the Lord, “Heaven is My throne and the earth is My footstool. Where then is a house you could build for Me? And where is a place that I may rest? 2) For My hand made all these things, Thus all these things came into being,” declares the Lord. “But to this one I will look, To him who is humble and contrite of spirit, and who trembles at My word.” Isaiah‬ ‭66:1-2‬
It often takes a deep work of grace and the ministry of the Holy Spirit to bring a person to this point. It is a posture that sees the smallness and insignificance of self as compared to the greatness, glory and magnificence of God.
This quality seems to run contrary to the modern Christian emphasis of self significance, self confidence and self promotion. Let me emphasize that this quality does not crush the human spirit, it merely aligns the believer with their proper position and identity “in Christ.”
I see this quality as the perfect marriage between John 15:5 and Philippians 4:13. On the one hand, “apart from Him I can do nothing”, on the other hand, “I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.” Poor in human spirit is the pathway to becoming mighty in the Holy Spirit. We could conclude that being “poor in spirit is the only way to become mighty in Spirit.” It is the idea of being empty of self so you can become full of Christ.
I believe God will arrange trials and design circumstances to bring every believer to this heart posture. God will never be big in us or through us until we become small in our own eyes.
Daily Bible Commentary By Terry Baxter: Cofounder of GoServ Global