Matthew 5:3 Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Poor in spirit; what does that mean? Scholars seem to be all over the map as to how to interpret this passage. Some believe that Jesus refers back to the type of people left as a remnant in Israel and Judah when Babylon took the Israelites into captivity. Those left behind were the poorest of poor. They were in charge of the keeping of the land. Those people basically inherited the land. Other scholars believe that Jesus is speaking of those who are or feel fated to a simple life. Life is just not complex for this type of person. This person is filled with what God gives him. Finally, some scholars believe that this is the person so broken that he has nowhere to turn but to God.
Regardless of where one lands when interpreting this passage, it seems clear that Jesus in some way is referring to someone who is humble, or at the least, someone who would be perceived in some way as being of lower status.
When I read this passage, the first verse that comes to mind for me is Psalm 51:17: “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.” I think about when I have no place left to turn, I am broken in spirit or poor in spirit; God is what I have left. It is in this place where I am in His kingdom. I have access to all God has to offer. I want to note that the interpretation from Greek to English shows “kingdom’ and “heaven” not capitalized. This observation tells me that this is a here and now situation.
Scholars and preachers alike believe that the kingdom Jesus speaks of is both later and now. God reigns over both. There are aspects of God’s kingdom that are established now. There are other aspects that are in the Heavenly realms. And yet, there are other aspects in the spiritual realm, unseen.
Those who are poor in spirit have an access to God and His kingdom that is unique. Because of their situation, the only place they can turn is to God. In those times, the communion with God is pure, deep, meaningful, and in many ways unexplainable. I think God sustains those who are poor in spirit much like he sustained Moses and Jesus during their 40 day fasts. God sustains those who are poor in spirit with His Spirit.
Furthermore, I believe that there are times in life where we are poor in spirit. Situations in life may dictate such a plight. However, I also believe that there are those who are just poor in spirit for life. As I make that statement, I think about how many times and in various ways Jesus talked about the first shall be last and the last shall be first. These who are poor in spirit perpetually will be filled with God’s Spirit and have a connection with him that is deep and fulfilling.
I go back to what does poor in spirit mean? How do I become poor in spirit in order to find a special place in God’s kingdom? Do I humble myself? Do I empty myself? As I think about this, I wonder if at times I’ve been poor in spirit and God has granted me keys to his kingdom and I have not even seen it. For some reason, I make this passage more confusing than it really is. Bottom line, I need the Holy Spirit of God to lead and guide me. If I get in the way, I do not hear that Spirit speak to me. I must find a way to be poor in spirit so that I can hear the Holy Spirit’s guidance. At that point, I have access to the kingdom of heaven in a new and deeper way.
1. What interpretations have you heard for this passage?
2. What is your interpretation?
3. Describe someone who you see as poor in spirit.
4. In what ways can you become poor in spirit?
5. Ask God this week to reveal to you what it means to be poor in spirit and pay attention to what goes on around you.
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