What did Jesus mean by His phrase, blessed are the poor in spirit?

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In the Sermon of the Mount, Jesus said, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:3). Some assume that Jesus is here talking about being poor in the material riches which often become a distraction to the believer’s relationship with the Lord and entices the soul away from the spiritual matters. It is true that Jesus warned that money can become an idol and that “No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon” (Matthew 6:24). But Jesus here is not speaking about the poor in riches.

Jesus is saying happy are those who feel deep spiritual poverty and sense their desire and need of the things that the kingdom of heaven has to offer (Acts 3:6; Isaiah 55:1). Because those who do not sense their spiritual need, who feel they are “rich, and increased with goods” and in “need of nothing,” are, in the eyes of heaven, “wretched, and miserable, and poor” (Revelation 3:17). No one but the “poor in spirit” will ever enter the kingdom of heaven through the grace of God.

A sense of one’s need is the first condition of entrance into the kingdom of God’s grace. Jesus gave the parable of the publican and He illustrated that because he felt his own spiritual poverty and repented, he “went down to his house justified” (Luke 18:9–14). On the other hand, the self-righteous Pharisee who was proud  could not receive the kingdom of heaven.

The good news is that there is hope for sinners. Christ invites the poor in spirit to exchange their poverty for the riches of His grace. “I counsel you to buy from Me gold refined in the fire, that you may be rich; and white garments, that you may be clothed, that the shame of your nakedness may not be revealed; and anoint your eyes with eye salve, that you may see” (Revelation 3:18). Jesus offers His righteousness to the repentant believers and then He invites them to have  faith which works by love (Galatians 5:6; James 2:5) that they may be transformed into His own character.

In His service,

BibleAsk Team

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