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Poor in Spirit

"Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven." Matthew 5:3

In Matthew 5:3 Jesus shocks His disciples and the crowd that was gathered there with “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” He then launches into eight more statements that would change the way followers of Christ would think from that point forward.

Jesus had returned to Galilee after having spent forty days in the desert.  Upon coming out of the desert He learns that John the Baptist has been put in prison. He decided not to continue to live in his hometown of Nazareth and moved to Capernaum.  He had been teaching, preaching and healing in the area and He had picked up Andrew, Peter, James and John as disciples. 

The area of Galilee likely had several million people at the time and there were many fairly large cities.  Jesus had been going to each city and into the synagogues. People knew Him as the son of Joseph and Mary who had now grown up and was a traveling rabbi.  But He was more than that as many would conclude and only a few of them would truly follow Him.

At the time Jesus began His ministry, the Jewish religious system had become a complex set of ritualistic outward demonstrations.  The leaders in this religious practice were the Pharisees.  They had made life so difficult and so legalistic that there was little love for God.  People blindly followed the “law” and the additions to the law that continued to be injected into daily living.

As descendants of Abraham and followers of the law, they were proud and confident of their right standing with God.  Surely God approved of their actions since they were so piously performed.  And they despised all people who were not Jews- they were gentiles, dogs and there were special rules that were written to make sure one did not become unclean by coming into contact with them.

Jesus destroyed their thinking in an instant.  “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of God.”  He did not say “Blessed are the Jews, Blessed are the Pharisees, Blessed are all those who are keeping the law.”  He said you were blessed if you understood how poverty stricken you.  You are not righteous.  You are all sinners.  Happy are you who can understand how desperate your situation is because then and only then will you recognize how precious I am to you.  He would tell them later that He is the way, the truth, and the life but only those who were poor in spirit would ever believe Him.

Are you “poor in spirit” or do you think you can get to heaven on your own?  You may want to reconsider your thinking based on what Jesus said.  There are no self-righteous people in heaven.  If there were, Jesus would not have had to die on the cross to atone for our sins and to give us His righteousness.


 The belief that does not save is the belief that does not change the person who believes. Jesus said that if you believe in Him, you would be changed