These teachings begin with and repeat the word ‘blessed.’ There are blessings for those who have these attributes that Christ describes in His teaching.
The word blessed also means happy, but in the truest sense of the word, not in the sense of being comfortable or entertained for the moment. Barclay describes the word blessed as that joy which has its secret within itself, that joy which is serene and untouchable, and self-contained, that joy which is completely independent of all the chances and changes of life.
Jesus begins with being poor in spirit as the first attribute or character trait that every disciple should desire. To be poor in spirit is not one’s confession to one’s own insignificance or lack of value. Rather it is a confession of one’s own sinfulness, rebellion, the utter lack of moral virtues adequate by God’s standards. It is to be acutely aware of one’s spiritual bankruptcy.
Recognizing and knowing where we are and the spiritual condition of our hearts is the first step to start our relationship with God. “A ladder, if it is to be of any use, must have its first step near the ground, or feeble climbers will never be able to mount. It would have been a grievous discouragement to struggling faith if the first blessing had been given to the pure in heart; to that excellence, the young beginner makes no claim, while to the poverty of spirit he can reach without going beyond his line.” (Spurgeon).
Poor am I Lord, nothing of worth have I
Of every good thing, I am in lack
Nothing have I, that you should want me back
My heart is full of sin, O yes, a defiant rebel am I
And by your Spirit this do I know
Without you, on my way to hell, am I.
Everyone can start here.
To be in a place of knowing what we are not, or do not have is the first step to growing in other spiritual traits. And for those who are poor, so poor in spirit that they must beg, there is a reward. They are promised the kingdom of God. As long as we have illusions of our own spiritual resources, we will never receive from God what we absolutely need to be saved.
Absolute poverty of spirit is the prerequisite to receiving the kingdom of God. The criteria of receiving the kingdom of God are not based on race, color, earned merits, or even zeal or wealth. Rather, it is given to those like the prostitutes, the publican, who are so very poor that they have nothing to offer, and so, do not even try. Their cry for mercy is heard.
The poor in spirit seems like those who are owners of nothing and yet, they are described as the inheritors of all things. The call to be poor in spirit is logical since it puts the commands that follow into perspective. The poor in spirit reflects what one cannot do on their own strength and a beggar-like dependence on God’s power. No one mourns until they are poor in spirit; no one is meek towards others until he has a humble view of himself. If we don’t sense our own need and poverty, we will never hunger and thirst after righteousness; and if we have too high a view of ourselves, we will find it difficult to be merciful to others.
“Not what I have, but what I have not, is the first point of contact, between my soul and God.” (Spurgeon). Mary, the sister of Martha, knew this deep need for the Lord and His Word. She chose to put herself at the feet of Jesus, as her utmost priority.
How about you?