We live during a confusing period in the history of the world. One will say … ‘blessed are the rich,” whilst another says the poor needs to be cared for.
(1) Those rich in the eyes of the world are honored, respected and treated with special privilege and distinction. There are many wealthy people who are very good people, treating others, irrespective whom they are with dignity and respect. On the other hand, many wealthy people cannot see those outside of their societal bracket. They are blind to the needs of the less fortunate.
(2) Often those people from various social levels tend to speak for the poor and marginalized, pleading their case yet in reality their voices are mainly to attract attention to self. Very few people are truly concerned about the plight of those desperately needy.
(3) Kingdom wealth is different to earthly wealth. Without speaking against wealth, our Lord spoke against the attitude of greed when He said:
Mt 6:19 “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. 20 But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
The apostle Paul took that point and wrote … (look at the last four words):
Col 3:5 Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry.
Far too many who call themselves Christians offer a token tithe where we are called to present 10% of our gross income as a tithe to God. (Tithe means 10%.) Investing 10% plus into the Kingdom of God with the right godly attitude and purpose is investing in His Kingdom. Refusing to offer Him the right tithe and amassing His rightful money for self is theft. God is very precise about this in Malachi:
Mal 3:8 “Will a man rob God? Yet you rob me.
“But you ask, ‘How do we rob you?’
“In tithes and offerings.”
(4) Many deduce that the Kingdom of Heaven belongs to those who are poor. They say the poor struggle on earth and will have bliss in Glory. They even cite:
Luke 16:20 At his gate was laid a beggar named Lazarus, covered with sores 21 and longing to eat what fell from the rich man’s table. Even the dogs came and licked his sores. 22 “The time came when the beggar died and the angels carried him to Abraham’s side. The rich man also died and was buried. 23 In hell, where he was in torment, he looked up and saw Abraham far away, with Lazarus by his side.
All of the above is a necessary introduction to the First Beatitude.
Mt 5:3 “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”
A short verse filled with profound Truth and Reality.
(a) This beatitude has nothing to do with earthly wealth or poverty. this means it excludes material goods … even though the majority of people hearing the message were without worldly wealth.
(b) The word “spirit” ought to help one understand the poverty is a spiritual one. This does not mean a lack of spirituality. Rather it refers to the condition of the spiritual dimension of the person. Before we venture to understand the word “blessed” … as it is used in each of the beatitudes, let us first consider …
1) To whom is Jesus talking? To everyone in general … the beatitudes are evangelistic in nature intended to cause people to think about who they are, who and what God is and where they stand relationally before God. But in specific, Jesus was talking to those within the Kingdom of Heaven … which is the Kingdom of God. The true believer is being addressed by Jesus as He explains the character of those within the Kingdom. It is vital to grasp this … our Lord is addressing those born again, explaining to them what a gospel person’s true spiritual character is and He is using the opportunity to say to those thinking they are in His kingdom to do some soul searching and examine whether they fit the requirements for Kingdom membership.
2) Poor in spirit. This beatitude deals with one’s understanding of spiritual poverty and need. A better English expression is “bankruptcy” … spiritual bankruptcy! Originally the Greek implied “frightened, hiding for fear and wretchedness”. Jesus uses the term to indicate the spiritual condition of the soul of a believer whose is aware and conscious of his or her soul’s need. In other words, such a person is realistic about the condition and inadequacy of their soul. Many are blind to the condition of their soul. Look at what Jesus said to the Church at Laodicea:
Rev 3:15 I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! 16 So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth. 17 You say, ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.’ But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked.
They did not know their spiritual bankruptcy, but He did!
3) When the pride of the “old man” is broken and personal helplessness is understood … one understands the true nature of one’s soul. As an example:
Lk 18:13 “But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’”
Saved by grace but still a sinner! Positionally righteous … practically unrighteous. This is the reason John writes:
1Jn 1:8 If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word has no place in our lives.
Contrary to the belief of the “Holiness Movements”, Christians remain sinners and need daily pardon. We have not completed our study of this Beatitude but I am certain you get it! The first proof of being within God’s Kingdom and knowing that your sin depresses your soul, rendering you conscious struck when you sin because you realize what Jesus did to save you from that sin!
O Lord, help me to deal harshly with my sinful nature. Although forgiven it sticks its neck out daily. Holy Spirit strengthen me to stand against the enemy and his tempting offerings so that I might pursue pleasuring You through holiness. Amen.