Blessed Are The Poor In Spirit
January 3, 2016

Sermon On The Mount

“Blessed Are The Poor In Spirit”

Matthew 5:3


Last week we looked at the meaning of the word “beatitude.” The word “beatitude” comes from the Latin meaning happy or blessed. Walter Bauer in his Greek-English Lexicon defines this word as the “privileged recipients of divine favor.”

Consider , those who are poor in spirit, who hunger and thirst for righteousness are the privileged recipients of God’s divine favor, therefore they’re blessed and happy.

In the Hebrew the word means not only to be happy, but also “to go straight.”

The fullness, therefore, of this word can be found in the very first Psalm.

“Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor stands in the path of sinners, nor sits in the seat of the scornful; but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and in His law he meditates day and night.” (Psalm 1:1-2 NKJV)

And so those who are blessed are those who keep God’s commandments. They are the recipients of His divine favor.

Therefore all the beatitudes begin with the word “blessed,” or “happy,” and that’s because they reveal the secret of true happiness, which isn’t found in what we have, but rather in who we are in Jesus Christ.

Happiness in the Bible has a much deeper meaning than it has today.

Our modern word for “happiness” comes from the root word, “hap,” which means “by chance,” and it’s where we get our English word, “happenstance.” In other words, our happiness is dependent upon our circumstances. When things are going well, we’re happy, but when they’re not, our happiness flies right out the window.

But happiness in the biblical sense means spiritual joy and satisfaction that lasts regardless of conditions or circumstances. It’s a happiness that carries us through the pain, sorrows, losses, and grief associated with life itself.

That genuine joy or happiness can then come from being spiritually poor, which is diametrically opposed to our conventional wisdom. In our minds those who are blessed or happy are those who are rich and famous, the movers and shakers, the self-reliant and the self-confident.

But conventional wisdom is often at odds with biblical wisdom.

God’s wisdom our ways are radically different from what the world thinks. God says, “For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways.” (Isaiah 55:8 NKJV)

The Apostle Paul said, “For the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God.” (1 Corinthians 3:19 NKJV)

And so was we enter into today’s subject and this sermon series, we must ask,

  • Are we willing to accept the radical teaching of Jesus?”
  • Are we willing to let it change our lives in the radical way they’re intended?”

Out of all the subjects Jesus could have chosen to speak on to start His sermon, why did He choose the topic of happiness? The reason may be because He knew that true happiness was what everyone wants and is searching for, but few find.

“Psychology Today” asked 52,000 Americans what would make them happy. Their answers ranged from friends, social life, job, love, recognition, success, attractive, city life, rural life, religion, recreation, parenting, children, marriage, and their partner’s happiness.

What this reveals is that we try to find our happiness through the externals of life. It’s the when and then thinking.

  • When I get out of school then I’ll be happy.”
  • When I get a job, then I’ll be happy.”
  • When I get married, when I have kids, (and then) when the kids leave home, then I’ll be happy.”

The classic chapter in the Bible of humanity’s search for happiness is the second chapter of Ecclesiastes written by King Solomon who had everything. He’s considered still to be the wealthiest man ever. But what he reveals in this chapter is that everything the world considers would make them happy doesn’t. He basically gives us three.

The World’s Definition of Happiness

  1. Possessions

(Ecclesiastes 2:7-8)

Solomon tried to find happiness through the accumulation of stuff. He was rich beyond imagination. He had cities built to just hold his chariots and horses. In other words he built cities to hold his cars. But in the end he found them worthless and useless.

  1. Pleasures

(Ecclesiastes 2:1, 3, 10)

Next Solomon tried pleasures. He tried everything under the sun, even having 700 wives and 300 concubines. Whatever he desired he got, and he held nothing back.

  1. Power

(Ecclesiastes 2:4-6, 9)

Finally he tried power. Solomon was the greatest king to ever live. His wisdom was so great that royalty traveled from around the world just to have an audience with him.

We feel that if we just gain a little measure of success we’ll be happy, but what Solomon found in the end is that it was all without meaning or purpose.

Solomon and people throughout the millenniums have found that nothing of this world brings true happiness. And so like Solomon they say,

“Everything is meaningless—like chasing the wind.” (Ecclesiastes 2:17 NLT)

Therefore, throughout our series what we’ll find is that

  • Happiness doesn’t depend on right circumstances; rather it depends on right attitudes.
  • Happiness isn’t determined by what’s happening around us; rather it’s determined by what’s happening in us.
  • Happiness doesn’t depend on the externals of life; rather it depends on our internal attitudes.

So let’s finally take a look at our first beatitude, being poor in spirit.

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 5:3 NKJV)

I’m not sure where I picked this up from, but let me read how someone described this and why Jesus put it first on His list.

Jesus puts this beatitude first because humility is the foundation of all other graces, a basic element in becoming a Christian. Pride has no part in Christ’s kingdom, and until a person surrenders pride he cannot enter the kingdom. The door into His kingdom is low, and no one who stands tall will ever go through it. We cannot be filled until we are empty, we cannot be made worthy until we recognize our unworthiness; we cannot live until we admit we are dead. We might as well expect fruit to grow without a tree as to expect the other graces of the Christian life to grow without humility. We cannot begin the Christian life without humility and we cannot live the Christian life with pride.”

The first step then to true happiness is to be humble. But what does it mean to be poor in spirit. In today’s world, being poor in sprit is equated with being weak, depressed, timid, and passive.

But what it means to be poor in spirit is to be totally dependent upon God. Jesus is talking about having a humility that openly admits we don’t have it all together; realizing that we haven’t yet arrived; realizing that we haven’t yet learned it all, and that we’re not the sum total of the universe.

This is seen in the wording itself. The word “poor” comes from the verb meaning to shrink, cower, or cringe. It was used to describe people of complete poverty who were reduced to crouching in a corner begging for food.

And so, to be poor in spirit is to humbly bow our hearts to God, acknowledging our total spiritual poverty before Him, and our utter dependence upon Him. It’s to understand that apart from Christ we are spiritually destitute. It’s our acknowledgement that we’re spiritually bankrupt, and totally unworthy before God.

And so Jesus begins these attitudes by saying that happy are the humble, that humility and happiness go together, and if we want to have lasting happiness, then we need to learn to be humble.

This then goes to the question, how does humility, being poor in the spirit, increase our happiness?

  1. Humility Reduces Stress

“Be clothed with humility, for “God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time.” (1 Peter 5:5-6 NKJV)

When we’re humble all pride goes out the window, as well as stress, and that’s because we realize that we’re not needed to run the universe. It’s a great stress reliever knowing we don’t have to know all the answers, and we don’t have to save the universe.

God doesn’t demand perfection on our part. Being humble relieves the tension of needing to be the ideal example of what a human has to be. Humility accepts the fact that we can be happy without everything around us being perfect, because life isn’t dependent upon us, but upon God.

  1. Humility Improves Relationships

“When I come again, my God will humble me among you, and I shall mourn for many who have sinned before and have not repented.” (2 Corinthians 12:21 NKJV)

Now, while this might sound like a strange Scripture to quote about how humility improves our relationships, but knowing why Paul wrote it might. The Corinthian church was blowing it big time, but Paul didn’t want to come and get all up in their grill and possibly wreck their relationship.

So he said his desire was to come in humility, in poorness of spirit, so that he would mourn and pray over the strife, contentions, jealousies, and backbiting that was going on there. He didn’t want to come and rebuke as much as he wanted to come and edify. So coming in humility would help him restore relationships.

Being humble, being poor in spirit helps to build up relationships, because no one likes to hang with selfish, self-centered, prideful people. These wreck relationships, not restore them.

People like to be around humble people, and that’s because they’re always more interested in others than themselves. Humble people also find it easier to say the two hardest words in the human language, “I’m sorry,” and the three hardest words, “I was wrong.”

St. Francis of Assisi, an 11th century monk, had a method of maintaining his humility. If anyone praised him he would have a fellow monk tell him all his faults to keep him humble.

I think he had his fellow monks do it because he wasn’t married. Most of us who are married don’t need a monk; God has given us spouses for that purpose. And while it’s funny, the truth is that it’s not our job to keep anyone humble, it’s God’s job.

Ruth Graham Bell said that her job was to love Billy, but it was God’s job to keep him humble. And the truth, God always does a much better job.

  1. Humility Releases God’s Power

“Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and He will lift you up.” (James 4:10 NKJV)

What the Apostle James is saying is that when we bow down before the Lord and admit our dependence upon Him, He’ll lift us up and honor us, He’ll give us the strength to make it through the day.

Humility releases God’s power in our lives. And so the secret of spiritual power is to walk humbly before our God, realizing that our lives are dependent upon Him and not ourselves.

The secret of strength is admitting weakness

The secret of power is admitting helplessness

The secret of happiness is humility

The secret of victory is complete surrender to God

The secret of independence is dependence upon God


All God has to offer is available to the person who walks humbly before God. All that God has to offer is available when we live in total dependence upon Him.

The attitude of being poor in spirit is to say, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me, and apart from Him I can do nothing.” When we do He’ll give to us the strength to go through the difficulties, trials, and tribulations that come with life.

Let me end with a couple of biblical examples of those who were poor in Spirit.

Gideon – Prior to him leading the attack on the Midianites, God called him a mighty man of valor. Upon hearing these words Gideon said, “Who me? I’m the least of the least in the land of Israel.”

Moses – Before delivering the Israelites out of their 400 year bondage to the Egyptians, as the Lord called him from the burning bush, Moses continued to say just how inadequate he was.

And when God was ready to wipe out Israel for the golden calf incident, Moses interceded and asked God to take his life, to wipe his name out of the book of life rather than the Lord destroying the people for their sin.

Isaiah – After seeing the glory of the Lord in a vision said, “Woe is me, for I am completely undone. I am a person of unclean lips and my righteousness is like a filthy rag.”

Paul – While he had all the credentials he never used them, instead he counted upon the simple knowledge of Jesus Christ in his life, and then he said, “I am the chief of sinners.”

And so, if we want to be truly happy, if we want to have the promise of the kingdom of God, then we have to have this attitude of being poor in spirit, the same as those who were the mighty men and women of faith.

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