Why does Jesus say “the poor in spirit” are blessed?

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus begins the sermon with a section called The Beatitudes, 8 statements, most of which seem counterintuitive at first glance. But these are much deeper than pithy statements. They point us to the ethics of Jesus. 

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” 

Being poor in Spirit does not necessarily mean worldly poverty. It certainly can mean that. And for many Christians throughout the centuries, it has meant that. Spiritual poverty. It’s a Spiritual bankruptcy. It’s looking to the perfect and holy God and knowing that you do not and cannot measure up on your own. That the price to be paid for your sins is not one that you can pay. That you have nothing to bring to God that God needs. You have nothing with which to barter on your own. 

Being able to approach God, knowing that you couldn’t do it on your own, knowing that the only hope you have is his mercy and grace is what it means to be poor in Spirit. 

Jesus says that for the person who is poor in Spirit, theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 

There’s no room for vanity in the gospel. Because by it’s nature, we come to Christ with a debt of sin that we are unable to pay, but because of his love and goodness he pays it for us at the cross. 

If one thinks “well my sins aren’t all that bad. No one is perfect, but I’m pretty good.” 

Then you’re. not. poor in Spirit.  

But it is for the poor in Spirit that the Kingdom of Heaven is reserved. People who try to argue that God will forgive everyone, regardless of if they have faith, that’s not being poor in Spirit. It’s finding reasons to disregard the teachings of scripture. 

Are you poor in Spirit? 

What is your response to the love of God? Do you think “Well yeah, I’m pretty great. He should love me.” Or do you take joy in the immeasurable grace of God?

And the blessing of being poor in Spirit is in recognizing that it is all the work of God. It is only through Christ and the gospel that we can have hope. We should take joy in what God has done. But while the world likes to mitigate sin and tell us it’s not such a big deal. While society acts as though the only moral absolute is tolerance and that we can’t think of sin as sin, a holy God does have standards. And while we can’t live up, the good news is that there is grace. But it’s hard to appreciate the forgiveness of sins if you don’t think your sins are sins. 

Blessed are the poor in Spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 

That’s an idea that isn’t popular.

 But again, the values of heaven are different than the values of earth.