What does the phrase poor in spirit mean?

Jesus said, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:3). In this verse, the word poor in spirit points to those who feel their great need of what the Lord has to offer (Acts 3:6; Isa. 55:1). Those who do not feel their spiritual need, and think they are “rich, and increased with goods” and in “need of nothing,” are, in Heaven’s eyes, “wretched, and miserable, and poor” (Rev. 3:17). For only the “poor in spirit” will ever enter the kingdom of grace; all others who feel no need of heaven’s riches, will not receive its blessings.

The publican, in Jesus’ parable, realized his own spiritual poverty and he “went down to his house justified” rather than the self-righteous Pharisee (Luke 18:9–14). There is no room in the kingdom of heaven for the proud, the self-satisfied, and the self-righteous. Christ calls the poor in heart to exchange their poverty for the riches of His transforming grace.

Christ often taught this truth about the kingdom of His grace in the parables of the Tares, the Mustard Seed, the Leaven, the Dragnet (Matt. 13:24, 31, 33, 47), and many others. God is perfect and He is eager to impart His character to all that seek Him with all their hearts. “Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hears my voice, and opens the door, I will come in to him, and will eat with him, and he with me” (Rev. 3:20).

The Jews saw the kingdom of heaven as a kingdom based on force that would make the nations of earth submit to them. But the kingdom that Christ came to establish was one that begins within men’s hearts, changes their lives, and runs-off into other men’s hearts and lives with the strong power of transforming love. “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation” (Mark 16:15)

In His service,

BibleAsk Team

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