Spiritual Bankrupts

Sharing Options

The Beatitudes taken together begin the Sermon on the Mount, and this Beatitude is the introduction to the rest of the Beatitudes. Poverty of spirit is the introduction to the introduction. As we shall see, this is the place where understanding of Christ’s message must begin.

Christ teaches us that “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matt. 5:3). The word translated “poor” here is ptochos, and it comes from a verb which means “to crouch” — the posture of beggars. It refers to an apparent destitution, of one who is a beggar. “Blessed are the spiritually destitute, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”

It is crucial for us to understand our need before God. Men who do not comprehend their emptiness do not seek to be filled. As Watson puts it, a hand clutching pebbles cannot be filled with gold. Those who are poor in spirit can be described this way:

First, they have a good understanding of the greatness and sovereignty of God. As they see Him as He is, they are greatly humbled. “For thus says the High and Lofty One who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy: ‘I dwell in the high and holy place, with him who has a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones” (Is. 57:15). Poverty of spirit is humility before God.

In the second place, they are not, as we would say, full of themselves. They know that apart from Christ, they are nothing — worthless. In an age consumed with idea of cultivating a “good self-image,” this is a message that must be grasped. Consider the human condition as stated in Romans 3.

Third, they are, consequently, perfectly content with the God-given terms of salvation. We have an English proverb which expresses this perfectly — “Beggars can’t be choosers.” The fact that so many want the authority to choose their own salvation for themselves reveals that they are not yet poor in spirit. We must constantly remember Romans 9:18.

At the same time, we have to learn what poverty of spirit is not. When Christ teaches us that something is good and desirable, there is a natural tendency for those who want to follow Him to try to acquire that thing through some kind of short cut. But it is important to note that poverty of spirit is before God; it does not involve an abject display before men (I am soooooo worthless!), and it does not involve an erasure of our personality. Consider what the transformation of Peter did not involve. It did not involve the vaporization of Peter’s personality.

Those who are impoverished in spirit inherit an eternal kingdom. Those are not impoverished in this way, do not inherit. This is the kingdom for which we pray, and for which we work and serve. The way up in this kingdom is down, and this reversal of our more common understanding begins right at the gates of this kingdom.

What basic lessons are here? Poverty of spirit is both commanded and commended. Think and pray over these things:

This kind of poverty is true wealth. A man cannot be poor this way without having all the wealth of Christ’s kingdom. Second, this kind of poverty is not contemptible in the eyes of God. It is noble, or to use Christ’s phrase, those who are poor in spirit are kingly. To use Watson again, “God esteems the valley highest.” God deems this as a royal demeanor. Third, this kind of poverty is a great comfort. When you know that you have nothing, you must rest in Christ for everything. Remember Psalm 61:2. And last, this kind of poverty is a means of God’s blessing upon you. If you have it, you have His blessing. And if you have His blessing, what else is necessary?

Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments