Who Are the Poor in Spirit?

The Spiritually Bankrupt

Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Matt. 5:3 NIV

Every year, the gospel reading for Ash Wednesday is the Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount (Matt. 5-7); it is a privilege to yearly meditate and preach on this great sermon. Last Ash Wednesday, we examined several significant truths found within Jesus’ magisterial teaching, let’s look at one of those insights in this post and several more in the coming days.

Who are the poor in spirit? Eugene Peterson paraphrases this verse in The Message, “You’re blessed when you’re at the end of your rope. With less of you there is more of God and his rule.” For Peterson, the poor in spirit are those who are at the end of their rope: they have nowhere else to turn, nowhere else to hide, and no one else who can help. They have nothing left, but God.

Indeed, the poor in spirit acknowledge their complete and utter bankruptcy before God. They are afflicted and know deep down inside that they cannot save themselves. The poor in spirit confess their unworthiness and utter dependence on God’s mercy and grace. The “poor” have confidence only in God. These dear ones will receive God’s kingdom: the rule and reign of Christ in their hearts now. They will experience the very life of God: all he is and who is in their lives today.

“Blessed are the poor in spirit”—towards God. Am I a pauper towards God? Do I know I cannot prevail in prayer; I cannot blot out the sins of the past; I cannot alter my disposition; I cannot lift myself nearer to God? Then I am in the very place where I am to receive the Holy Spirit. No man can receive the Holy Spirit who is not convinced he is a pauper spiritually.

Oswald Chambers, Studies in the Sermon on the Mount, electronic ed. (Hants, UK : Marshall, Morgan & Scott, 1996).


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