“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” – Matthew 5v3
In chapters 5 to 7 of Matthew’s Gospel we have a record of what is arguably the world’s most famous sermon – Jesus’s Sermon on the Mount. A prominent theme in Jesus’ preaching was the Kingdom of God: He proclaimed that the Kingdom was near (Mark 4v15), since the promised Messiah had finally arrived to usher it in.
It’s this subject of the Kingdom that is central in the Sermon on the Mount, and Jesus begins His teaching with the well-known Beatitudes (Matt. 5v3-12), where He describes the character of the kind of person to whom this Kingdom belongs.
Much to the surprise of His audience the profile of the person described by Jesus in the Beatitudes differs markedly from what people were expecting. According to Jesus, the Kingdom belongs not to the high and mighty, or those who are prominent and influential in the eyes of society.
Nor does it belong to those of religious standing – the scribes and Pharisees in Jesus’ day.
On the contrary, it belongs to those whom Jesus describes as being “poor in spirit.”
What did Jesus mean by this? We should not confuse poverty of spirit with material poverty – although the two may often overlap. To be “poor in spirit” means, rather, to recognise one’s own state of spiritual bankruptcy before God; it’s to be like the tax collector in Luke 18 who (in contrast to the self-righteous Pharisee!), beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’
Thus, the first prerequisite for membership in Christ’s Kingdom is that we recognise our own sinfulness, and hence our need for mercy. Those who trust in their own righteousness can have no place in this Kingdom, for they are effectively blind to their need for a Saviour.
As Jesus Himself said, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous but sinners” (Mark 2v17).
If we wish to enter Christ’s Kingdom then it is imperative that we repent of all “self-righteousness”, recognising our moral and spiritual inadequacy bankruptcy, and in humility look to Jesus for the grace and mercy that we so desperately need.
Are you “poor in spirit”? Does your character match the profile of the person Jesus describes in the Beatitudes?
- Bryan Marx, Grahamstown Baptist Church