Matthew 5:1 And seeing the multitudes, he went up into a mountain: and when he was set , his disciples came unto him: 2 And he opened his mouth, and taught them, saying, 3 Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
The first thing we need to understand is that Jesus is describing an attitude of heart that brings the blessing of God upon a person. It can be said that the poor in spirit are blessed and happy, they obtain blessing from God, for the kingdom of God belongs to them.
The things taught in this section of scripture in the book of Matthew deal with changing the attitudes of our heart. Jesus is describing conditions of the heart or heart attitudes that bring blessedness upon the one possessing them. Many have referred to this passage in Matthew 5: 3-12 as the Beatitudes. The word beatitude means exalted happiness or supreme blessedness. Some have said using a play on the word “beatitudes” that we should let these attitudes be in us. Why, after all, would Jesus declare a thing to be blessed unless He desired us to adopt it as part of ourselves?
So, that being said, we must understand that this scripture is referring to a heart attitude rather than a natural condition. Poverty, in and of itself, was the result of Adam’s fall from the presence and the provision of God, and can hardly be viewed as a blessing under any stretch of the imagination. After all, if being poor is a blessing then why do we fight and struggle so hard to avoid it?
No, poverty is and will forever be a part of the curse brought on mankind by the fall of Adam.
But He says blessed are the poor in spirit. If you look at the concordance definition for “poor” you will find such words as beggarly, helpless, powerless, and lowly, just to mention a few. I particularly like the word “lowly”, as used in connection with the definition of the word “poor.” It could be used to replace the word “poor” and we could say that blessed are the lowly in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
The word “spirit” is used in the scripture to represent the inmost part of man, the heart.
1 Peter 3:4 But let it be the hidden man of the heart, in that which is not corruptible, even the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit, which is in the sight of God of great price.
Peter is using the word “spirit” to refer to an inner attitude of the hidden man of the heart, but to refer to the hidden man of the heart is a reference to the spirit of a person, their heart of hearts. So then the word “spirit” is used to refer both to the spirit or heart of a person and it’s also used to refer to an inner attitude of the heart, two uses of the same Greek word, pneuma. It appears based on the context of the statement in Matthew 5:3 that Jesus is referring to an inner heart attitude in His reference to the word “spirit”, rather than to the human spirit, at least in this passage.
It also appears that the phrase “poor in spirit” means identically the same thing as the phrase “lowly in heart”, a phrase used by Jesus to describe Himself. It means humble, gentle, and meek, not harsh, not high-minded, not thinking more highly of ourselves than we ought to think. The kingdom of heaven is theirs.
Matthew 11:28 Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden , and I will give you rest .
29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls.
30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”
Jesus described Himself as meek or gentle, and “lowly in heart.
The Greek word defined as lowly in this passage is “tapeinos”, and it means, according to the concordance definition, of low degree, of low estate, humble.
Jesus, the creator of the universe, the One with the most reason to be proud of His accomplishments, described Himself as being of low degree and humble in heart. This is what being poor in spirit is about. It’s about adapting an inner attitude of humility, which is in the sight of God very pleasing.
1 Peter 5:5 Likewise, ye younger, submit yourselves unto the elder. Yea, all of you be subject one to another, and be clothed with humility: for God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble.
6 Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time:
Be clothed with the heart attitude of humility. For God resists the proud and He gives grace to the humble. And is not grace the very blessing of God?
This is confirmed likewise in the book of James.
James 4:6 But he giveth more grace. Wherefore he saith, God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble.
7 Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.
8 Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you. Cleanse your hands, ye sinners; and purify your hearts, ye double minded.
9 Be afflicted, and mourn, and weep: let your laughter be turned to mourning, and your joy to heaviness.
10 Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and he shall lift you up.
James takes it a step further here by likening humility to an attitude of heart by which we humble ourselves in the sight of God through heart-felt repentance from those things that displease Him. In other words the humility James is talking about is the humility that turns one from the ways of man and unto the ways of God.
God gives grace to the humble, and grace is the power, the driving force, of the kingdom. The humble receive grace, and through that grace the blessing of the kingdom becomes a reality in their lives. Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who take upon themselves the inner attitude of lowliness of heart, the attitude of humility, the humility that receives the grace of God, turns from sin, and endeavors to please God, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven, and they take possession of the blessing of God.