At the beginning of the Beatitudes, “Jesus said: Blessed are the poor in Spirit, for there’s is the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:3).
To be poor in Spirit is to recognize that you have nothing to offer God. That your account has no balance in it through which you can pay your way into heaven. It’s realizing that you are nothing.
Our society doesn’t like that thought though. We like to think we’re good, we like to think we can do things on our own way, we like to make things about our own talents or abilities or goodness. We like to rely on our own skills to get through life. We glorify talent.
But our value is not in how good we are. In fact, being poor in Spirit is knowing that you’re not good. You’re not good enough to stand before a holy God. Our value is not about our talents and abilities. Especially when our talents and abilities are things that God gives to us. It’s not about how smart, or strong, or beautiful or funny someone is. It’s not about how likable you are. It’s not about having a winning personality. It’s not about your accomplishments, as nice as those might be. None of that counts for anything before a Holy God.
Blessed are the poor in Spirit.
Is that a message that is the good news of the gospel to you? Is it one that you look at and praise the Lord for because you know you don’t measure up? Or do you hate that message? Do you think you really are good? Not just you, but others are too.
The gospel is God’s gift to sinful people who do not and cannot deserve it.
And as we look to the Holy and mighty God of creation, may we recognize that, and be aware of that. Because even though we have no way on our own to warrant being with God, he has made a way through the death that Jesus died for all who believe in him.
And it is entirely because of God’s goodness.
You have nothing that God needs. Because God isn’t needy.
A needy god is an idea of Pagan religions.
The God of the Bible doesn’t need anything. He is from himself. He is self-existent, self-sufficient, eternally glorious and holy.
He is utterly superior to us. And the sooner a person can recognize that, the sooner they can realize their total dependence on God. And the more we can try to wrap our minds around the infinite goodness and holiness of God, the more we can appreciate that he lets us be with him at all.
We often put ourselves on pedestals. They think others are less worthy, less valuable than they are.
But then we have God. The mighty creator of the heavens and the earth, who by the power of his word creates, who holds all things together, who is so holy that no one can look at him and live, and the world likes to arrogantly think we can just strut into heaven, likes to make a mockery of the weight of sin. That we can tell God the conditions by what “real love” actually is.
And all of it blasphemy.
When we assume we’re worthy of God but treat others like they’re beneath us, that’s implying that there’s a greater chasm that separates us from another person than there is that separates us from God. The God who created us. The God who created all things.
And so we need to realize this about God…
The only reason why you’re worthy of being in the presence of God is because God made a way for you to be in His presence, not because there was anything about you that was worthy.
And that’s important to get. It’s not what you do, it’s what Jesus has done. Do you believe in that? Do you trust in that?
Blessed are the poor in Spirit.
In Jesus, we see humility.
Jesus is God.
In him the fullness of deity was pleased to dwell (Colossians 1:9). He holds all thigns together (Colossians 1:17).
And he came to earth.
Just a couple weeks ago, celebrating Christmas. # Always strikes me in reading the story of his birth. The humble beginnings. Born in a small town, laid in a manger. Some shepherds are the first to hear that the savior of the world has come into the world. And the rest of his life modeled that same humility. Eating with the people who were at the bottom rungs of the social ladder. Washing his disciples feet. His total submission to God the Father.
In John 5:30, Jesus said” “I can do nothing on my own. As I hear, I judge, and my judgment is just, because I seek not my own will but the will of him who sent me.”
Philippians 2:6-8 says: though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death.”
We see the humility of Jesus.
Jesus who is glorious in his own right, God in the flesh.
Do we have a Christ-like humility before God? Humility is not something that plagues our society.
I think we’re more likely to be afflicted by the reasoning of the two disciples when “A dispute also arose among them, as to which of them was to be regarded as the greatest” (Luke 22:24).
But we are not here for our own glory. We are here for – and because of – God’s glory. And so may we be people who do not make much of ourselves. But who make much of the God who created us.
I think about the ways our society glorifies celebrates.
With the internet and social media, people in the public eye can essentially live their whole lives on display.
But people can be fanatical about celebrities.
Perhaps some of you remember the old Saturday Night Live sketch, that was later a couple of movies: Wayne’s World?
The sketch revolved around Wayne and Garth, who hosted a show devoted to rock music, filmed on a cable public access channel and broadcast from Wayne’s parent’s basement. And there are times where the characters get to meet various rock idols, like Aerosmith, and when they do, they bow down and say “we’re not worthy, we’re not worthy, we’re not worthy.”
And there are extreme example of people taking their fanaticism to unhealthy and obsessive levels. A British man had over 30 tattoos dedicated to pop singer Miley Cyrus A woman intentionally broke her own leg after singer Jesse J broke hers in an accident. Another man spent over $100,000 on plastic surgeries to make himself resemble pop singer Justin Bieber.
Those are obviously extreme example.
But that doesn’t change that our society loves celebrities, is fascinated by celebrities.
And it can be easy for some, in the presence of an idol to respond just like Wayne and Garth with “we’re not worthy.”
But those are just people.
Imperfect, finite, fallible people.
We have a mighty God who knows you, loves you. And what do we do with that?
It’s easy to just take that fact for granted.
So part of what it means to be poor in Spirit is to recognize God for who God is.
How do we view ourselves before God?
Does what you believe and how you live not matter? Just go about your life as if it doesn’t matter to God? I think that’s the eternal game of Russian Roulette that many in our society play.
But that isn’t the Bible’s way. That isn’t God’s way.
Blessed are the poor in Spirit.
It’s no coincidence that the blessednesss for the poor in Spirit is the first of the beatitudes.
Because it is the poverty of Spirit which is the entry point to faith. It’s hard to acknowledge your need for God when you’re relying on yourself, making much of yourself. It is the recognition that we need God.
Because in knowing that you need God, you are enabled to trust in God.
It is for the poor in Spirit that Jesus promises the Kingdom of Heaven.
And we can appreciate that when we marvel at the holiness and goodness of God.
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Josh Benner has a Master of Divinity from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. He has served churches in Minnesota and Illinois. He enjoys writing about faith and culture. He lives with his wife Kari in St. Louis.