Beatitudes: Blessed are the Poor in Spirit

By: Bill Bratt


One of Jesus' earliest sermons was the "Sermon on the Mount" and He gave eight Beatitudes to His disciples.

'Beatitudes' are defined as 'Supreme blessings or happiness.' 'Blessed' is defined as 'Made sacred or consecrated', 'bringing happiness.'

The word 'blessed' in the Latin Vulgate is the Latin word 'beati' which is the origin for the word 'beatitude.'

Let's read the Beatitudes in Matthew 5 verses 1 through 12. "And seeing the multitudes, He went up on a mountain, and when He was seated His disciples came to Him. {2} Then He opened His mouth and taught them, saying: {3} "Blessed are the poor in spirit, For theirs is the kingdom of heaven. {4} Blessed are those who mourn, For they shall be comforted. {5} Blessed are the meek, For they shall inherit the earth. {6} Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, For they shall be filled. {7} Blessed are the merciful, For they shall obtain mercy. {8} Blessed are the pure in heart, For they shall see God. {9} Blessed are the peacemakers, For they shall be called sons of God. {10} Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake, For theirs is the kingdom of heaven. {11} "Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake. {12} "Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you."

First notice that with each beatitude there is a reward.

The first beatitude says in verse 3, "Blessed are the poor in spirit, For theirs is the kingdom of heaven." Notice that the reward is the "kingdom of heaven." Now let's read verse 12, "Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven." Notice that "your reward is in heaven," but it does not say that you are going to heaven!

Now back to Matthew 5 verse 1, Jesus saw the multitudes. You would think that Jesus might say, "Wow, this is a fantastic opportunity for evangelism and I can preach the Gospel to them."

But that is not what Jesus did, notice it says, "He went up on a mountain, and when He was seated His disciples came to Him. {2} Then He opened His mouth and taught them."

It appears that only Jesus and His disciples went up the mountain and Jesus taught them.

The phrase "He opened His mouth and taught them" is an idiom from the Greek which stresses a solemn instruction or a prepared statement that Jesus was giving to His disciples.

The word 'taught' means to 'teach' and if someone teaches you something then you are to learn something. Here Jesus is giving His teaching on the Beatitudes to His disciples.

Let's notice a side point. At the end of Jesus' Sermon on the Mount, Matthew 7 verses 28 and 29, it says, "And so it was, when Jesus had ended these sayings, that the people were astonished at His teaching, {29} for He taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes."

Notice that at first only Jesus and His disciples went up the mountain, but somewhere during His Sermon on the Mount, the multitude of people found Him.

Now let's focus in on what Jesus taught His disciples and learn something.

Beatitude #1 - Poor in Spirit

Matthew 5:3, "Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven."

The word 'poor' in the Greek is the word 'ptochos' which means absolute and abject poverty. A person who has nothing at all, he is destitute.

In Hebrew the word 'poor' was used to describe the humble and the helpless man who puts his whole trust in God.

'Poor in spirit' means to recognize our humility, our own unworthiness and our dependence that we must place in God and that our only hope lies in God intervening for us.

This humble man realizes that "physical things" means nothing, and that God (the spiritual) means everything.

First Dimension of Spiritual Poverty

First, if we are to be poor in spirit, we must be aware of our spiritual poverty (1).

Jesus gave us this parable in Luke 12:16, "Then He spoke a parable to them, saying: "The ground of a certain rich man yielded plentifully. {17} "And he thought within himself, saying, 'What shall I do, since I have no room to store my crops?' {18} "So he said, 'I will do this: I will pull down my barns and build greater, and there I will store all my crops and my goods. {19} 'And I will say to my soul, "Soul, you have many goods laid up for many years; take your ease; eat, drink, and be merry."' {20} "But God said to him, 'Fool! This night your soul will be required of you; then whose will those things be which you have provided?' {21} "So is he who lays up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God.""

Notice that this rich man put his sights on the physical and ignored the spiritual.

What about us? Don't put 'physical things' above God. Physical things will only bring you temporary happiness.

Let's think about physical things for a minute.

We get a new car. This car is fantastic. It has that 'new car' smell. Everything is new, clean, shiny, bright, and everything works. After a year or two, the tires wear out, it needs a tune up and the engine is knocking and there are other problems. It is physical and it wears out.

What about an "I-Phone." Many people have them and they are great. You just bought the latest one and it is version 6 and it is fantastic, the latest in technology. A year later, version 7 is released, and you say "This version 6 phone is obsolete and it is trash. I need to buy this new version 7, it is the latest in technology and it will do almost everything except bake an apple pie." These phones are physical and they become obsolete quickly because of the advancement in technology .

Physical things are like status symbols. Many of us have a tendency to lust after the physical things.

So physical things, these temporary treasures, only give us Temporary Happiness.

Second Dimension of Spiritual Poverty

Second, if we are to be poor in spirit, we must receive the riches that Christ has provided by His death and resurrection (1).

The death of Christ was not an accident. Jesus tells us in John 3:16, ""For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life."

God wants to reconcile the world to Himself and it takes the death of His one and only Son to do it. Jesus Christ bore our sins for us. He died in our place. We must surrender our will to the will of Jesus Christ. We must pay the price of humbling ourselves and receive Christ as our savior.

Third Dimension of Spiritual Poverty

Third, if we are to be poor in spirit, we must be conscious of our dependence on God (1).

Jesus said that we must become like little children to enter the kingdom of heaven.

Matthew 18:1, "At that time the disciples came to Jesus, saying, "Who then is greatest in the kingdom of heaven?" {2} Then Jesus called a little child to Him, set him in the midst of them, {3} and said, "Assuredly, I say to you, unless you are converted and become as little children, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven. {4} "Therefore whoever humbles himself as this little child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven."

Notice that Jesusí disciples were thinking about who would be greatest in the kingdom and Jesus reproved them in that their attitudes should focus towards being humble and childlike.

Letís think about children for a minute. Children are totally dependent on their parents. They donít worry about food, clothing and shelter. They totally rely on their parents for all of their needs.

What do we need to do as Christians? We need to put God first in our lives and we need to focus in on the spiritual things.

Matthew 6:31 "Therefore do not worry, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'What shall we wear?' {32} "For after all these things the Gentiles seek. For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. {33} "But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you."

Notice that we shouldn't have to worry about the physical things, but we should concentrate on the spiritual things of the kingdom of God and His righteousness.

The apostle Paul said in Philippians 4:6 "Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanks-giving, let your requests be made known to God; {7} and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus."

God is our parent and He will take care of us His children.

Fourth Dimension of Spiritual Poverty

Fourth, we must willingly deny ourselves that we might better serve Christ (1).

"Jesus said to His disciples, "If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me" (Matthew 16:24).

Jesus also said, ""I counsel you to buy from Me gold refined in the fire, that you may be rich; and white garments, that you may be clothed, that the shame of your nakedness may not be revealed; and anoint your eyes with eye salve, that you may see. {19} "As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten. Therefore be zealous and repent. {20} "Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me" (Revelation 3:18-20).

Our Reward is the Kingdom of Heaven

Letís focus in on the reward associated with this beatitude: "Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven."

Why did Matthew use the term "Kingdom of Heaven"?

The Jewish New Testament Commentary says: "The word "Heaven" was used in pious avoidance of the word "God" and to this day Hebrew malkhut-haShammayim ("Kingdom of Heaven") substitutes in Jewish religious literature for "Kingdom of God," an expression found frequently in the New Testament, first at Matthew 6:33. In the Jewish New Testament "Heaven" is capitalized when it refers to God; "heaven" is in lower-case when it refers to the sky or paradise"(2).

"The Talmud (Pesachim 50a) made it a requirement not to pronounce the Tetragrammaton (the word means the "four-letter name" (YHVH) of God), and this remains the rule in most modern Jewish settings" (3).

The NIV Study Bible relates, under the section Purpose: "Matthewís main purpose is to prove to his Jewish readers that Jesus is their Messiah. He does this primarily by showing how Jesus in his life and ministry fulfilled the O.T. Scriptures."

Matthew primarily wrote to the Jews. He did not want to offend them so he used the term "Kingdom of Heaven" in lieu of the phrase "Kingdom of God".

This Kingdom of God that we should be seeking will be set up on earth after Jesus Christ returns. When Jesus returns the dead in Christ and the Saints who are alive will be resurrected and meet the Lord in the air (1 Thessalonians 4:16-17, 1 Corinthians 15). Christ will set up the Kingdom and will be King of kings and Lord of lords (Revelation 19:11-16). The Saints will rule with Jesus Christ and He will "have made them kings and priests to our God, and we shall reign on the earth" (Revelation 5:8-10), "with Him for a thousand years (Revelation 20:4-6).

(For more information on the 'Kingdom of God' request our free article:  Thy Kingdom Come?) (Pick the Link & Read it On-line)

In Summary: "Blessed are the poor in spirit." Why? There is a reward, "For theirs is the kingdom of heaven."


Footnotes: (1): Billy Graham, "The Secret of Happiness", 2002, p. 17,21,23,25.

(2): David H. Stern, "The Jewish New Testament Commentary",1966, p. 16.

(3): David H. Stern, "The Jewish New Testament Commentary",1966, p. 4.


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