Journal Entry // January 28, 2023
“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. (ESV)Matthew 5:3
Jesus separated from the great crowds and has gone up a mountain with his disciples to teach them about the Kingdom of God. With his disciples gathered around him to listen, Jesus begins to speak and starts with a summary description of the whole of his teaching with a section of nine statements that all begin with the word “blessed”. This word, blessed, is sometimes translated and defined as happy. There is a sense in which happiness is a true outcome of these blessings, as the one who is blessed by God should be in a state of happiness over his being blessed but I think it means something a bit more than just a feeling of happiness. Especially as modern-day men and women typically think of happiness in response to getting what they want/desire or seeing personal gain coming from some material circumstance. No, the “blessed” that Jesus is talking about here is more about the person being approved by God. Not a fleeting experience of happiness, but an objective truth of our state of being approved by God. The blessing of God upon the people Jesus is going to describe is his approval. That God approves of the person and has given them his blessing is the central point. The person being blessed is not the focus. The focus is on the One who blesses. The One who gives his approval.
In this first beatitude, Jesus tells us where to begin in this journey of faith as he describes the first truth about those approved by God. It all starts with “the poor in spirit”. This term describes a person that understands the depraved state of his soul and the depth of sin that taints his every action. Poor in spirit is an understanding that there is a spiritual deficit and lacking in my life and that I am unable to pay the price. I am truly poor in my spiritual standing before God. The word Jesus used for poor is not what I might normally think of when I hear the word poor. I tend to think of the poor as someone who just struggles to make ends meet but has some resources to make it day-to-day for the basic needs of life. The thought behind the word Jesus used for poor is more akin to the word beggar. It would be better to think of it as “beggarly poor”. Someone who has zero resources. Someone who is hunched over in their stature and is unable to stand straight. Someone who can only survive through the generosity of others. Someone who has to beg for every morsel of food. This is our spiritual state that Jesus is challenging us to embrace. A state of utter dependence upon the grace and mercy of God to supply our every need. Not just the big needs of life, but the everyday mundane needs. “Our daily bread”. In essence, it is just another way to describe humility. The poor in spirit are truly humble.
What do the poor in spirit, the truly humble, receive? They receive the kingdom of God. They receive heaven. They receive Jesus himself! Being poor in spirit sets the tone for the rest of the Sermon on the Mount and is the essential starting point for our spiritual journey with Jesus. My poorness of spirit can be nothing more than a spiritual beggar. I am to be a humble man who understands that he brings nothing to the table before Christ. I am just a beggar in need of the grace and mercy of God to provide for my daily needs. There are no needs in my life that I have the strength or power to provide for. There are no minor or mundane activities that are separated from the grace and mercy of Christ. Everything in my life is to be an action of a spiritual beggar. I should be pouring out my heart to Christ. I should be abiding in Christ at every moment. I should be praying at all times. This is the life of a spiritual beggar. This is the life of a humble man that is approved by God; one who will inherit the kingdom of God and be with Jesus forever and ever.