The Poor in Spirit
By Dr. Jack R. Hodges, Jr.
At the very beginning of Jesus’ “Sermon on the Mount” found in the Gospel of Matthew, Chapters 5-7, you will find a wonderful and powerful introduction that has been called “the Beatitudes.” Each of these simple declarations begins with the word “blessed.” If you look carefully, you will see eight “Be” attitudes which Jesus declared are eight godly and spiritual attitudes that manifest both the working of the Holy Spirit and the characteristics of someone who is sold out to Jesus, His calling and His mission.
Jesus began His powerful sermon with these words, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of God.” Would you pause and consider who is the “poor in spirit” to which Jesus is referring? One might quickly assume that Jesus is referring to the poor, downtrodden, poverty-stricken, and war-torn people of this world. Truly, the Lord God cares for the ones who are forgotten and forsaken; for those cast-off, manipulated, and misused; or for those who find themselves with little or no resources on which to live. God will, without a doubt, be merciful to them—for He cares for each and every one of us.
But the phrase that Jesus uses gives us a clear hint of whom He is speaking to. One who is “poor in spirit” is the one who has recognized that they are poverty-stricken, helpless, and hopeless without God. This is none other than one who has relinquished and turned their lives over to Jesus. You are one of the “poor in spirit” when you have truly heard the Lordship claim of Jesus over your life and you have responded by faith, giving your heart and life to Jesus as Savior, Lord, and Master.
In ancient Israel, the term “Lord” (adonai in the Hebrew and rabboni in the Greek) was used often, signifying and declaring that one was relinquishing or deferring to the wisdom, power, or position of another. The two terms, lord and master, were almost synonymous with each other. A master was one who rightly claimed ownership or dominion over another. And in a world of slavery, a master or lord literally owned the individual and was given the right to determine everything that a slave did.
Godly people continue to work to remove the blight of human bondage and slavery in our world. But make no mistake! God claims ownership over His creation. Jesus Christ, God’s Son, and His sacrificial Lamb or Messiah, rightly claims ownership over us. But unlike ancient times, He draws near to us and invites us to willingly give up ownership of and sovereignty over our lives. He demands the position of Lord and Master because He is our only Savior. And to all who come to Him in simple, childlike faith and invite Him to be Lord, Savior, and Master, He claims as a spiritual child of faith. You are not His slave, but rather His spiritual child. And He invites and implores His beloved to serve Him completely and fully.
So when Jesus proclaimed, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven,” He is not talking about poverty or lack of money or financial resources. He is referring to those who know just how spiritually bankrupt and empty they are without Him as Lord, Master, and Savior. The poor in spirit are those who know their need for God and are hopelessly dependent upon Him. The poor in spirit are those who realize that everything in their lives, their past, their present, and their future depends upon their absolute reliance upon the grace, mercy, and love of Christ Jesus. And because of that understanding, they choose to live each day; each moment under the absolute, comforting, loving, and powerful Lordship of Jesus Christ.
Jesus declared that those who are spiritually bankrupt and poor in spirit will “inherit the Kingdom of God.” Imagine that! The kingdom promises (salvation, forgiveness, reconciliation, freedom, and eternal life) are for anyone and everyone who knows how inadequate they are on their own; who throw their lives upon the mercy of the Lord; and who live out of desperate dependence upon the Lord. Blessed are you who choose Jesus!
Dr. Jack Hodges is the Senior Pastor at Pleasant Hill Baptist Church in Morganton, NC. He has served as a pastor, a biblical counselor, and an International Mission Board missionary.
Read more from Dr. Hodges here.