The Beatitudes – Blessed Are the Poor in Spirit

Now when Jesus saw the crowds, he went up on a mountainside and sat down. His disciples came to him, and he began to teach them.

He said:

Blessed are the poor in spirit,
   for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn,
   for they will be comforted.
Blessed are the meek,
    for they will inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, 
   for they will be filled.
Blessed are the merciful,
   for they will be shown mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart,
   for they will see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers,
   for they will be called children of God.
Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness,
    for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

This past weekend at Coastal Church we started our series on the Beatitudes that beginsJesus’ Sermon on the Mount recorded in Matthew 5-7. In these chapters we read a collection of Jesus’s teachings that have greatly impacted, inspired and transformed people globally. In this blog, I will be mainly focusing on the first Beatitude found in Matt. 5:2: “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” In verse one we see Jesus observing  the large crowds as he walked up the mountainside and then sitting down, which was the well-known posture of a teacher. The location of this “mount” is believed to have been in the low hills of  northern Israel on the Korazim Plateau, behind the region of Capernaum. The audience that Jesus was speaking to  probably consisted of two groups: the disciples, who were in the inner circle, and the outer circle of the “crowds.” This we get from Matt. 5:1 where he notes that “His disciples came to Him” and in Matt. 7:28, “when Jesus had finished saying these things, the crowds were amazed at his teaching.” Our church’s desire is to teach, encourage and equip followers of Christ with God’s Word and for the “crowds” listening to be awakened to Jesus as Lord and Savior. 

All About Jesus

One thing to keep in the forefront of our minds as we study through the Beatitudes in Matthew 5 is to “…realize that they also describe Jesus himself…” (Keller, 89). For instance, the reason why we can be comforted is because Jesus mourned. The reason we can inherit the earth is because Jesus became meek and was slain for our sins. The reason the poor are blessed is because Jesus became poor for us. The Beatitudes point us to Jesus.

Jesus begins His teaching by declaring a certain kind of person favored. We call these pronouncements “Beatitudes,” from the Latin word for happiness or blessedness. There are eight Beatitudes; Pastor John Piper explains this well: “The Beatitudes are words of celebration for disciples — people who have been awakened by the present power of the age to come. And they are words of invitation for the crowds — the people who come to [church] out of tradition or curiosity or skepticism.” (Piper, 1986).  The Beatitudes encourage us as Christians to rejoice and celebrate our place in the Kingdom of God, but they also  call others to turn to Christ as the one who is the source of all blessings and for them to be transformed by the power of the Holy Spirit for the glory of the King. The blessings of the Kingdom of God come to us now and in the future. God is merciful to us now and in the future because the Kingdom has already come and is now at work in us and around us; the Kingdom of Heaven is already present and near us, as well as in the future. The blessings of the Kingdom are here now to be enjoyed, but many of them more fully in the future. For example, after the second coming of Christ all the enemies of God will be defeated and we will no longer  experience sin, sickness, suffering, and attacks from satan. The Kingdom of God is here now, but not fully. So we pray: “Come Lord Jesus”.

Poor in Spirit

“Blessed are the poor in spirit,
   for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” Vs.1

What does it mean to be poor in spirit? The scripture has a lot to say about the poor, both in spirit and materially. Let us look at some characters in scriptures who will give us an idea of what poverty of spirit is like:

Old Testament

Psalm 51:17
“The sacrifice acceptable to God is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise.” – King David

Job 42:5–6 “My ears had heard of you but now my eyes have seen you. Therefore I despise myself and repent in dust and ashes.” – Prophet Job

Isaiah 6:5 “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!”  Prophet Isaiah

Do you see what these Old Testament saints have in common? They did not exalt themselves in life as proud and arrogant people with a self-confident and self-righteous attitude. They saw the greatness and majesty of God and sensed their own spiritual poverty, brokenness and lack. If you and I truly see God as holy and powerful as He is, then we will also recognize our own lack of power, goodness and holiness.

New Testament

John 1:27; 3:30
“I baptize with water; but among you stands one whom you do not know, even he who comes after me, the thong of whose sandal I am not worthy to untie . . . He must increase, I must decrease” – John the Baptist 

Luke 18:13–14 “But the tax collector, standing far off, he would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me a sinner!’ I tell you this man went down to his house justified” – Tax Collector 

Luke 5:8 When Peter saw the power of Jesus on the Lake of Gennesaret, “[He] fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, ‘Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord’”- Apostle Peter

Romans 7:18 “I know that nothing good dwells within me, that is, in my flesh” – Apostle Paul

1 Timothy 1:15–16 “I am the foremost of sinners; but I received mercy for this reason, that in me, as the foremost, Jesus Christ might display his perfect patience for an example to those who were to believe in him for eternal life.” – Apostle Paul

These Old and New Testament examples show us that spiritual poverty is to have the understanding and acceptance of our own powerlessness, spiritual bankruptcy and helplessness. It is an awareness of our moral impurity before God. It is a recognition that everything that we have is from God and our lives are dependent upon Him. And that every good gift comes from God and we are able to enjoy life because of His grace, not because we deserve it. You may have noticed I write purposely that the spiritual poor are those who have the understanding and acceptance of their own powerlessness, spiritual bankruptcy and helplessness. The fact of the matter is, biblically and objectively speaking, everybody is poor in spirit. Whether people know it or not, everyone is powerless and spiritually lost without God, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). But not everyone is “blessed.” When Jesus declares, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven…”, He means those who recognize and accept their sinfulness and unrighteousness and cling unto Him by faith as the crucified and risen Savior, receiving His forgiveness and acknowledging His imputed righteousness in order to be born again and enter into the kingdom of God for eternal blessings. Blessed are you if you feel inadequate and in dire need of God’s help. Blessed are you if you do not conceal and deny your guilt, failures and sense of unworthiness, but rather accept, expose and confess them to a loving God who is full of grace and mercy.

Some reflective questions to ask yourself: do I sense my own spiritual poverty and realize that I am wretched, pitiful, poor, and blind outside of Jesus? Or do I see myself as spiritually rich, self-sufficient, morally upright and not in need of God’s rescue and provision? Do I have the attitude of the tax collector in Luke 18:9-14 crying out ‘God, be merciful to me a sinner!’ or of the Pharisee standing confident in my own righteousness looking down on everyone else?

Keller, Timothy. “Preaching: Communicating Faith in an Age of Skepticism”, Viking Penguin: New York, 2016.

Piper, John.  “The Beatitudes and the Gospel of the Kingdom” Desiring God, Jan 26, 1986,