What does the phrase “poor in spirit” mean?


By BibleAsk Team

The phrase “poor in spirit” is a central teaching of Jesus Christ found in the Sermon on the Mount, recorded in the Gospel of Matthew. It is a concept that has profound spiritual significance and challenges conventional notions of wealth and success. In this comprehensive exploration, we will delve into the meaning of “poor in spirit” from a biblical perspective, drawing upon relevant passages from the Bible to illuminate its significance and implications for Christian discipleship.

Context and Origin

  1. The Sermon on the Mount: The phrase “poor in spirit” is found in Matthew 5:3 (NKJV), the opening verse of the Sermon on the Mount, where Jesus delivers teachings on various aspects of the Christian life and Kingdom principles.
  2. Beatitudes: Matthew 5:3-12 contains a series of statements known as the Beatitudes, in which Jesus pronounces blessings upon specific qualities or states of being. The first Beatitude states, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”

Understanding “Poor in Spirit”

  1. Spiritual Poverty: The term “poor in spirit” does not refer to material poverty but rather spiritual poverty or humility before God. It denotes a recognition of one’s spiritual bankruptcy and dependence on God for salvation and sustenance.
  2. Humility and Dependency: Being “poor in spirit” involves a posture of humility, acknowledging one’s inadequacy and insufficiency apart from God. It is a disposition of dependency on God’s grace and mercy for spiritual nourishment and renewal.

Biblical References and Insights

  1. Psalm 34:18 (NKJV): “The Lord is near to those who have a broken heart, and saves such as have a contrite spirit.” This verse highlights the connection between spiritual poverty and contrition, emphasizing the receptivity of those who humbly acknowledge their need for God’s intervention.
  2. Isaiah 66:2 (NKJV): “But on this one will I look: On him who is poor and of a contrite spirit, and who trembles at My word.” God esteems those who are humble and contrite in spirit, recognizing their dependence on His word and guidance.

Spiritual Insights and Application

  1. Radical Dependency on God: Embracing spiritual poverty challenges the world’s values of self-sufficiency and independence. It requires a radical acknowledgment of our need for God’s grace and guidance in every aspect of life.
  2. Dying to Self: The journey of becoming “poor in spirit” involves a process of dying of pride, self-reliance, and worldly attachments. It is a posture of surrender and openness to God’s transforming work in our lives.

Theological Reflections

  1. Divine Exchange: In acknowledging our spiritual poverty, we are positioned to receive the riches of God’s grace and kingdom blessings. 2 Corinthians 8:9 (NKJV) declares, “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, that you through His poverty might become rich.”
  2. Kingdom Citizenship: The promise associated with being “poor in spirit” is the inheritance of the kingdom of heaven. Matthew 5:3 (NKJV) assures believers, “For theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” This underscores the paradoxical nature of the Kingdom, where the last shall be first and the humble shall be exalted.

Practical Implications

  1. Cultivating Humility: Prayer, meditation, and self-examination can cultivate humility and a deeper awareness of our need for God’s grace.
  2. Compassion and Empathy: Recognizing our own spiritual poverty can lead to greater compassion and empathy for others who are struggling or marginalized. It fosters a spirit of solidarity and mutual support within the body of Christ.


In conclusion, the phrase “poor in spirit” encapsulates a profound spiritual truth that lies at the heart of the Christian faith. It calls believers to embrace humility, dependency, and radical trust in God’s provision and grace. Being “poor in spirit” is not a mark of weakness but a pathway to true spiritual abundance and kingdom blessings. As followers of Christ, may we cultivate a spirit of humility and openness to God’s transformative work in our lives, embracing our spiritual poverty as a gateway to experiencing the fullness of God’s kingdom.

In His service,
BibleAsk Team

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