It’s interesting that Jesus sets the stage with the Beatitudes. He says you can be happy if, essentially. But then He begins with an antithetical type of idea. He says, “Blessed are the poor in spirit.”
When Jesus sat down to talk to people, He was giving them a vision for what life was to be like in the kingdom of God. It was very different then anybody had ever thought. He took every command from the Old Testament, and He deepened it and made it about what was really going on inside you.
But it’s very interesting the way He starts. He starts, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of Heaven,” and the word there for poor in spirit is actually a word for a beggar on the street. The sense is somebody who has nothing and knows it.
What He’s really saying there is that the way into the kingdom of Heaven is to know that you have nothing, and sadly, most of us don’t think that. Most of think that we have something, and that is what keeps us from the kingdom of Heaven, all those things that we think that we have.
What Jesus is calling us to is something completely differently. It’s not self-sufficiency, or self-reliance, or neatening ourselves up so that we can part of the kingdom of God and that we can be a follower of Christ.
It’s really saying, “I have nothing in myself to do any of these things. I can’t follow Christ on my own. I can’t love my neighbor. I can’t love my enemies. I can’t keep my word,” all those things that come in the Sermon on the Mount. The entrance is to say, “I have nothing. I need Christ for this.”
Meaning of “Blessed are the Poor in Spirit”
Not blessed or happy are those who are uplifted in spirit. Those whose bank account is full, those whose face is filled with a smile. Those whose shoulders and head are held high. He said, “Blessed are those who are poor in spirit.”
But what does it mean to be poor in spirit? Well, it means that you’re content in your life. It means that if you’re poor in your spirit, it means that you’re not thirsting and hungering for anything more than where you are. You are contrite with your place in life.
It means that you’re not coming to God demanding all the things that God owes you or coming to someone else. It means that you’re starting with a real understanding of who you actually are. It’s like the Bible says in the Old Testament.
It’s the Psalmist in fact who said, “that God remembers that we’re dust.” And so right out of the gate, Jesus reminds us you’re dust and it’s okay to be dust. And if you’re content being dust, then maybe you can be happier than if you’re discontent with every part in your life.