Now when Jesus saw the crowds, he went up on a mountainside and sat down. His disciples came to him, 2 and he began to teach them.
3 “Blessed are the poor in spirit,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
4 Blessed are those who mourn,
for they will be comforted.
5 Blessed are the meek,
for they will inherit the earth.
6 Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
for they will be filled.
7 Blessed are the merciful,
for they will be shown mercy.
8 Blessed are the pure in heart,
for they will see God.
9 Blessed are the peacemakers,
for they will be called children of God.
10 Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
11 “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. 12 Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
Reading just the “letter” can be quite confusing since, in the natural, they seem to contradict each other. For example, poor inherit the Kingdom of Heaven seems very similar to the phrase “you have to spend money to make money.” But we know that the “letter alone kills, but the Spirit gives life.” - 2 Corinthians 3:6
When I was in my Christian studies classes, I was told quite often just how impossible this passage of scripture is to live out. I heard, too many times, that this passage should be titled “the Impossible Sermon.” I’m sure this was repeated by many professors because it is impossible for us to live out in our own strength, and if we are trying to make ourselves conform to this we will never accomplish our goal of becoming like Him.
What does it mean to be “poor in Spirit”? Well, the word for “poor” here is “Ptochoi,” which means to be dependent on someone/something, and in this context means dependent on Holy Spirit. We know that Holy Spirit is here to equip each of us, personally, with the tools and ability to walk as Jesus walked. Without Holy Spirit, we can do nothing. But it doesn’t just rest fully on Holy Spirit, either. See, Jesus had to first come to redeem us so we can be given a new life- because there was none that were righteous. That is, until a new righteousness came by grace, through faith to them that believe in Jesus (see Romans 3:9-24). So Jesus brought this new righteousness to us, He presented us as holy, blameless, and above correction or accusation to the Father, and then Holy Spirit was sent to earth to walk us through the training course of life, teaching us how to leave the old life of sin and death, equipping us all as we learn to walk in the spirit.
What are we Poor in Spirit for? What is the purpose? What is the benefit? Well, it certainly isn’t for ourselves- to look good, to puff us up, or to impress others. As a matter of fact, learning to partner with Holy Spirit is a particularly scary thing for me. Being completely dependent on Holy Spirit means that I can’t stand on my own 2 feet without Him. It should be scary. It should cause you to feel doubt. It means that without Him actively helping me, I can’t do anything. This reminds me of Jesus in John 5:19- “…the Son can do nothing by himself…” And those who are willing to allow Holy Spirit to lead them in all things and at all times are constantly challenging themselves to surrender more and more control over to God. The more dependent we are on Holy Spirit, the more of the Kingdom of Heaven we will see on the earth, as Jesus desired it to be: “…Thy will be done, on earth as it is in Heaven…”- Matthew 6:10.
The Beatitudes are a paradox because so much of what Jesus said was backwards/upside-down. Jesus said blessed are the poor… that should never go together, and definitely doesn’t go together in this world. But we know that the Kingdom of God is upside down compared to this world: the first are last, the greatest are the least, the meek and the humble are who God desires, the sinner is a saint. The word for “blessed” means to endue with power. The world would say blessed are the rich, but Jesus says “blessed are the poor.” This is a paradox, and precisely why we say Jesus spoke in riddles. He purposefully chose to say what He did, to challenge the world, to show mankind that we cannot perceive the things of God without His help. It is precisely for this reason, at least 1 of the reasons, that we must be poor in Spirit in order to comprehend such a truth.
I can imagine the Pharisees on that day, listening to Jesus speaking, hearing Him say this first beatitude and laughing at the thought, entirely. “Surely, this man knows nothing of God. Everything he is saying is backwards and foolish!” All the while, they were hearing God’s heart and advice for us all, for the first time, but they lacked ears to hear. Let this be a caution to each of us. And even more, let us each strive to rely more and more on Holy Spirit, to guide us through life (not just on the surface, with decisions and direction, but) as we build relationships with people. I find that too many relationships are built on relatability and personality, and not on the Love of Christ. Jesus had an ability to love the people no one else could. How? He was poor in Spirit. May we be the same… Bless you.
Written by a few for the many.