Jesus said we would always have the poor with us. He also said we should take care of the poor.
But in the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said a curious thing: “Blessed are the poor in spirit for they will inherit the Kingdom of God.”
So what is the meaning of blessed are the poor in spirit?
And what did Jesus mean by poor in spirit? And how do the poor in spirit inherit the kingdom of God?
People who are poor in spirit are reflecting the spirit of Jesus who says “I am gentle and lowly in heart.”
They are people who have set aside self-pride and recognize they come to God with nothing to offer of their own merit to earn salvation. They know that salvation comes only through faith in Jesus Christ.
Here’s the quote of Jesus Christ delivering this amazing and important message:
“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”Matthew 28:28-30
What Does It Mean To Be Poor In Spirit?
To be poor in Spirit means to be poor spiritually. That is, to lack spiritual connection with God, to be devoid of the Holy Spirit.
That is the natural state of man because we have all sinned and come short of the glory of God.
Then the question is;
“If all men lack spiritual connection with God can we conclude that Jesus is trying to say that all men are blessed and that the Kingdom of God belongs to everybody who is in this poor spiritual state?”
Far from it.
The unfortunate situation is that the majority of spiritually poor people do not realize they are in abject spiritual poverty.
Many of them -especially those who are financially well-to-do- believe they are rich and don’t need help from anyone, not even God.
Jesus referred to this in the book of Revelation when He was sending John to the seven churches in Asia. He said;
“You say, ‘I am rich. I have everything I want. I don’t need a thing!’ And you don’t realize that you are wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked.”Rev. 3:17, NLT
He also chided the Pharisees for the same reason when they tried to condemn Him for healing a boy born blind.
Jesus tried to tell the Pharisees that they were in a state of spiritual blindness worse than what the boy had experienced.
But the Pharisees denied their own spiritual blindness due to their ignorance.
Jesus said to them:
“If you were blind, you would have no sin; but now you say, ‘We see.’ Therefore your sin remains.” (John 9:41, NKJV). (See examples of Jesus putting the Pharisees in the place here)
Only those who realize their spiritual helplessness and poverty are considered blessed for being spiritually poor. They are the people that can truly receive from God.
They are the ones that Jesus was referring to in His sermon as poor in the spirit.
God knows we cannot save ourselves. He is not even asking us to try.
All He asks is that we come to Him for our salvation and deliverance from the sinful nature we inherited as descendants of Adam.
That was why Jesus gave the invitation, “come to me all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”
God will not force His way into our lives, even though He has the power and the right to do so. He chose to give us the freedom to choose what we want.
Those who recognize their spiritual poverty and need for God are called blessed.
They have fulfilled God’s condition for receiving salvation, healing, deliverance, and all other divine blessings.
Everyone who would receive anything from God must first empty themselves of all pride and all human achievements.
We must come to Him with a deep desire for His provisions because God’s ways are not our ways.
Did Jesus Mean We Have To Be Financially Poor To Be Spiritual?
When Jesus said “blessed are the poor’ in His Sermon on the Mount, He was not referring to financial poverty.
If Jesus had said we must remain financially poor in order to inherit the Kingdom- it would run counter to so many other things he said.
“For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake, he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich”2 Cor 8:9, NIV
Also, the Bible tells us about God’s mind concerning our prosperity. God does not hide His feelings about it, He said in his word:
“Beloved, I wish above all things that thou mayest prosper and be in health, even as thy soul prospereth.”3 John 1:2, KJV
God wants us to be rich and enjoy the resources of the earth.
That was why He told Adam and Eve to take dominion and subdue the earth.
God lives in heaven, a place of indescribable beauty. The streets alone are paved with transparent priceless gold.
The Bible says what God is preparing for His people are what eyes have not seen, nor ears heard. The glory of heaven is worth living for -and dying for.
Many people think you cannot serve God, nor fully obey Him except you are poor. They believe riches and wealth are sinful. How wrong they are!
If that is true God would not have given wealth to Abraham His friend who eventually became the father of faith.
Abraham was so rich that he had 318 servants in his house, yet he made it to heaven.
God extended the wealth to his descendants.
The Bible records that Isaac was very great, and Jacob was exceedingly great.
The descendants of Abraham eventually became a nation, and God gave them a land flowing with milk and honey.
God never at any time planned for them to live in poverty. He sent Joseph ahead to Egypt to make provisions for how they would survive the famine.
When He directed Jacob and his family to Egypt, He ensured that they lived in the best part of the country, the land of Goshen.
What God condemns is the love of money, covetousness, and not giving to others in need when we can do so.
Jesus wants us to know we come to him poor in spirit, not in finances.
There is a big difference between the two. When you know you are poor spiritually you will be able to see yourself the way God is seeing you.
You will agree with God that you are a sinner and that you need Him to deliver you from your sinful state.
In other words, all that Jesus is saying is that we must be remorseful for our sins.
Instead of taking pride in committing the sin or justifying our fallen state, we must be contrite about them and seek His help to repent of them.
What Is An Example Of Being Poor In The Spirit?
To drive home His point on the issue of the necessity of spiritual poverty as a condition of obtaining God’s mercy, Jesus gave the parable of the Pharisee and the tax collector in Luke 18:9-14.
These two men went to the temple to pray, one would think God will accept the Pharisee and hear his prayers faster than that of his counterpart.
After all the Pharisees in those days were the teachers of the law. The other Jews see them as the custodian of the laws of Moses.
If anyone should know how to pray acceptable prayers to God, it should be the Pharisees.
On the other hand, the tax collectors were among the most detestable beings among the Jews. They forcefully collected taxes, cheated people, and took bribes.
One notable among them was Zacchaeus.
When he encountered Christ he volunteered to repay those he had cheated four times the amount he collected from them (see Luke 19:8, NIV).
Jesus emphasized the attitudes of these two men which determined the prayers they prayed, and eventually led to the results they got.
The Pharisee was full of pride and self-righteousness. (Lucifer is another example for us of the danger of self-pride)
He told God how justified he was because he was paying tithes, and giving alms. He even said he was not like the tax collector a notable sinner.
The tax collector prayed a simple prayer. The prayer of a sinner who needs God’s help. He said, “God, have mercy on me, a sinner.”
Jesus said the tax collector went home justified before God. “For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”
That was a parable, but as we all know Jesus used many parables to illustrate the things of the Kingdom of God so that we can understand His points.
But we also have another example in the Bible that is not a parable, that of King David.
David committed adultery with the wife of Uriah, killed the man, and hid the secret perfectly. But not before God.
God decided to punish him for his evil deeds. When the Prophet that God sent to David confronted him with his sins, he immediately owned up and asked for forgiveness.
As a king he could have justified his action, arrested the prophet, and disregarded God’s message, but not David.
He went to God in deep sorrow and said, “For I acknowledge my transgressions: and my sin is ever before me.” Psalm 51:3 (KJV).
As serious as his sin was, David received forgiveness from God, and though he was punished, God restored him to the throne and helped him conquer all his enemies.
David became a man after God’s heart not only because he knows how to praise God, but because he was ready to follow God’s way.
We should do the same and desist from justifying ourselves when we have done wrong.
There is no passage in the Bible where God said or wished that we should be poor.
We should change our mentality from poverty to wealth and abundance because our God gives us the power to get wealth. If we belong to Him, then He is ready to make us wealthy.
But we must know that the greatest and the first poverty that we must deal with is spiritual poverty. What shall it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses his soul in hell?
God wants us to see how poor we are in our fallen state. He wants us to know that we cannot do anything to help ourselves except through Him.
He wants us to come to Him the way we are and exchange our poverty for His riches.
Everything we need in this life and beyond can be found in Jesus.
We only need to surrender to the one who can raise the poor from the dust and lift the needy from the ash heap; who can seat them with princes and have them inherit a throne of honor. (1Sam.2:8,NIV).
What are your expectations? God can surpass them.
He can exceedingly and abundantly do more than what we think or say.
God loves you more than you can imagine, that is why He sent Jesus to die for your sin even when you are not ready to surrender to His will.
His ultimate plan is not just to give you wealth here on earth but for you to inherit His kingdom, and enjoy everlasting life.
Spiritual poverty is the starting point of all that God has to offer. Blessed is he whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered.