Blessed are the poor in spirit . . . the kingdom of heaven is theirs

It is agreed, by those who believe in Him, but also by many who don't, that the teachings of Jesus are the finest in the world.

It is agreed, by those who believe in Him, but also by many who don’t, that the teachings of Jesus are the finest that the world has ever known. Of all of the teachings of Jesus, the best-known, and possibly most loved, is His “Sermon on the Mount”.

It is the first of five discourses in the gospel of Matthew and is contained in chapters 5 through 7. Though the sermon is a magnificent piece of literature, it is also a powerful sermon. Jesus, fairly early in the discourse, pointedly told His listeners that unless their “…righteousness exceeds the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, you will not be entering the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:20). His audience must have partially caught what He was saying, for the discourse ends with “…the crowds were amazed by His teaching, because He taught them like one who had authority, not like their own teachers” (Matthew 7:28,29).

At the outset of this remarkable monologue, Jesus presented what is referred to as “the beatitudes”. There are eight of them and they are found in Matthew 5:3–12. The Greek word for blessed found in the New Testament is makarios. The word means to be fortunate, happy, or supremely blessed. I expect that all of the aforementioned words are ones that we would like to be descriptive of our lives. In light of this, a brief consideration, if not a careful scrutiny should be given to what Jesus said about what would make us blessed.

The first of the eight beatitudes is found in Matthew 5:3. It says, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to them.”

To begin with, the deprivation being referred to by the word poor has nothing to do with material wealth or possessions. It is not saying that there is privilege from God for the poor, nor is their prejudice from God for the rich. A quick look around in our own society will tell us that being poor brings difficulties and being rich presents many challenges – so that is not what this blessing is about.

What the beatitude is addressing and what the poor has reference to, is our spiritual poverty. While it may seem somewhat demeaning, the recognition of our personal spiritual emptiness provides the basis for blessing. Recognizing our spiritual bankruptcy and our deep spiritual need, prompts us to come to God for His help. We bring nothing with us to the cross of Christ, but receive all that we need once we are there.

The fact of the matter is, if we have not become poverty-stricken in heart, then we have not become spiritually prepared for heaven. Have a blessed day!