“BLESSED ARE THE POOR IN SPIRIT, FOR THEIRS IS THE KINGDOM OF HEAVEN” (Matthew 5:3).
WHAT DOES BEING ‘POOR IN SPIRIT’ MEAN?
The NEB puts it this way- ‘How blest are those who know their need for God…’ Poverty of the spirit might be described as a ‘deep and continually growing awareness of one’s need for God’. The poverty that Matthew mentions is equal to beggarliness.
The one who is poor in spirit –
- Knows the extent of his poverty – that he is utterly destitute
- Is desperate for fulfilment of his need
- Is aware of his helplessness to do anything to satisfy his need. He cannot work and has nothing in his possession that will obtain for him what he desperately needs. He must look to Another.
- Knows the One who can satisfy that need – a) that He is rich for He owns the cattle on a thousand hills and all the gold and silver, and b) that He is generous for He has said ,”If any man come to Me, I will not turn Him away”.
- Is not ashamed to turn to Him and depend on Him for supply.
The one who is poor in spirit is not self-confident, self-sufficient, self-dependant or even self-conscious. His confidence is in God, and God is His sufficiency. He depends on the mercy and goodness and ability of God. He has stopped being ashamed of his lack, for he has caught a glimpse of who God is and is willing to trust Him for help and strength. As this revelation of God grows clearer and fills his horizon, he forgets himself, his weaknesses and inadequacies. He realizes that God’s word is truth and all people and circumstances are subject to this truth.
Being spiritually poor is not the same as being materially poor because this is primarily an attitude of the heart. However in view of what Jesus said- ‘It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God’ (Mark 10:25) and what James writes – ‘Has not God chosen those who are poor in… the world to be rich in faith and to inherit the kingdom…’ (James 2:5), it does seem that the poor are likely to be more receptive to God and more aware of their need for Him.
CHRIST – OUR EXAMPLE
Christ is the perfect example of One who is poor in spirit. The Bible says ‘all the fullness of the deity dwells in Christ in bodily form’, yet He
- Chose to put aside all the attributes of the deity and ‘being in very nature God did not consider equality with God something to be grasped but made Himself nothing…’ (Philippians 2:6-7).
- Depended on God the Father for everything He spoke and did – ‘…I do nothing on My own but speak just what the Father has taught Me.’ (John 8:28) and ‘…I do exactly what My Father has commanded Me.’ (John 4:31)
- ‘… and became obedient to death – even death on a cross…’ (Philippians 2:8), He did this because He loved the Father and desired to bring glory to His name. (John 12:27-28).
Having depended on the cross for salvation, it is easy to ignore Christ’s command to ‘carry our cross and follow Him’. An illustration to make this clear – imagine a set of concentric circles. The innermost circle represents the cross of Jesus and is like the centre of gravity, and the outer circles represent various aspects of Christian life – praise and worship, preaching of the word, evangelism, fellowship, prayer – all of which are important for a Christian’s spiritual growth and for the extension of Christ’s kingdom on earth. Like the earth’s centre of gravity, the cross attracts things to itself and keeps them from drifting about. But with no cross at the centre, the other parts of our Christian lives will float around aimlessly like astronauts in outer space.
It is possible for us to become so pre-occupied with various Christian activities and yet be far away from the cross of Jesus and, know nothing of the self-denial of a consecrated life. To avoid this, Christ and His cross must remain at the centre of all our Christian effort as it did for Paul. ”For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you (preaching the gospel to the Corinthians) except Jesus Christ and Him crucified.”(1 Corinthians 2:2)
Paul explains that everything he formerly valued – Jewish heritage, birth, education, righteousness in fulfilling the law and zeal for tradition – appeared to him as nothing, now that he had found Christ. ‘But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things…I want to know Christ and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in His suffering, becoming like Him in His death…’ (Philippians 3:7-10). This is the essence of being spiritually poor.
To summarise, in everything Christ must be pre-eminent and knowing Him the object of our life and service.
THE CHURCH IN LAODICEA – A WARNING
In Revelations we read about the Laodicean church which had lost sight of their need for God.Outwardly rich, they had become self-sufficient, complacent and lukewarm. Having departed from the centrality of the cross, they had settled down and become comfortable in their works and church activities. They saw themselves as being spiritually rich, yet these were Christ’s words to them:
”You say, ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.’ But you do not realise that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked. I counsel you to buy from me gold refined in the fire, so that you can become rich; and white clothes to wear, so that you can cover your shameful nakedness; and salve to put on your eyes, so that you can see. Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest and repent.” (Revelations 3:17-19)
Even to such a church, the Lord offers hope – ”Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with Me.” These verses reveal how important it is to the Lord that we remain intimate with him and depend on Him.
To be continued –