Matthew 5:1-12 — Jesus Turning the Typical Worldview on Its Ear — Blessed Are the Poor In Spirit!

Posted: September 22, 2015 in 40-Gospel of Matthew, The Beatitudes

Matthew 5:1-12 — As we talked about yesterday, the kingdom mindset that Jesus calls us toward is completely different from the worldview of many in Jesus’ day and is distinctly different from the worldview of many today. With Jesus’ announcement that the kingdom of God was near back in Matthew 4:17, people were naturally asking, “How do I qualify to be in God’s kingdom?” Jesus answer is the Beatitudes. According to what Jesus teaches, the Kingdom of God is organized differently from worldly kingdoms. The things that matter in a worldly view are turned on their head in God’s kingdom.

in Verse 3, Jesus begins His teaching when He says, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” Wow! Poor in spirit! That sounds weird. To be poor in spirit! What does this mean? Being poor in our worldly view means not having what we need, lacking. Wouldn’t it be better in the world view to be “rich in spirit”? It would mean that we have what we need, that we are self-sufficient. By making this saying, Jesus is putting the world view on its ear. What does Jesus mean when he says that the poor in spirit will have access to the Kingdom of Heaven? How is this possible?

Does Jesus want us to be financially poor so that we are down and out and have a defeated spirit? That’s the initial impression that one might have if you are coming at the beatitudes from a worldly view. While Jesus warns frequently of the dangers of wealth and how it can come between us and a right relationship with God. There are great temptations to make money our god either through jealously protecting it and hoarding it when you have excess or making it your god when you do not have what you think is enough to live a life according to the economic standards of the culture in which you live. That can be as dangerous as getting caught up in keeping what you have when you are well-off, by your culture’s standards. But I do not think that espousing financial poverty is what Jesus is after in this beatitude.

Jesus is talking about spiritual realities not material ones. So, what then does it really mean to be poor in spirit, according to the mind of God, as spoken by God in the flesh, Jesus Christ. To be poor in spirit is to recognize that we are bankrupt not financially but spiritually. There is danger for us who believe in Jesus Christ to forget where we came from, so to speak. Those who are poor in spirit realize that we have nothing to offer God on our own. We are sinners in the hands of a just God. When we are poor in spirit we are humbled by the fact that we have been given grace through Jesus Christ. When we are poor in spirit, we understand that our destiny was in hell because of our sin and our prideful ways. When we are poor in spirit, we can see that we have no right to proud or haughty about what we have achieved. We have earned nothing. We are destined for hell on our own efforts. Nothing that we can do can erase away the taint of our sin on our own. In the absence of outside intervention, we are left with the permanent stain of sin. It is like a bathtub that gets used frequently. Without an external force to come in to clean it, it will develop a dirt ring around it that if not washed will become a permanent stain. The bathtub is not self-cleaning. it cannot clean itself. You and I are the bathtub my friends. We cannot clean ourselves. With each passing sin, the ring grows in its dirt that ultimately stains our beautiful porcelain finish beyond repair. The only way to prevent the tub from being stained permanently is for someone to come along and clean the tub because as we have said, the tub cannot clean itself. When we realize that we are helpless in our sin and that we are beyond repair, that we are beyond cleaning through our own efforts, that we could not get ourselves completely clean no matter how hard we try, then we are poor in spirit. We realize that we need something to come along and clean us up. That something is the grace of Jesus Christ.

Man, what great humility comes with that. Even after salvation, we as Christ followers must continue to remember that. We were saved from hell. Hell my friends. The place of eternal pain and suffering and that, my friends, is what you and I deserve in the hands of a perfect and holy God. We must remember that always. Even if we have been saved for 50 years or just 50 minutes, we deserve hell on our own. It is only through the grace of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ that we can even think of coming in the presence of a perfect and holy God. Think about it. Are you not humbled by that? Poor in spirit means that you get it! Poor in spirit means that you celebrate with great thanksgiving at what Jesus Christ did on the cross for you and for me. Let us never forget that even after 50 years of salvation.

The awesome humility that it brings when you realize daily that we stand at the precipice of hell. We see the flames and the anguished cries of hardened souls. We feel the absence of God. Even here on earth, people who have rebelled against God have access to the feeling of His presence, but in hell the vacuum of the absence of God is palpable. You can feel it. When we are poor in spirit, it is like the criminal that realizes that he deserves to be punished. That’s the difference between someone who has not been saved and one who is. A saved person realizes that he is at the precipice of hell and that he deserves the eternal punishment that it holds. But yet, when we repent and ask Jesus Christ to be our Savior, He comes in the courtroom and says this one right here, the one that deserves condemnation and eternal punishment, he is mine. I will take his just and deserved punishment. Punish me but set him free. To be poor in spirit is to be joyously thankful for the reprieve given us by Jesus Christ.

Let us never forget where we belong. Let us never forget where we came from. We are sinners continuously benefiting from the reprieve that Jesus Christ gave us on the cross. It is us that should have been there on the cross experience the wrath of God for our sin. But Jesus did it for us. We are set free. We live under the reprieve. We live on borrowed time. We have borrowed our freedom through Jesus Christ’s efforts. We have been set free. If we live our lives in the eternal understanding of that, it will take away all pride that we have in our own efforts even as Christ followers. When we are poor in spirit, we do good works from the overflow of our poverty in spirit. We do good works as daily thanksgiving to our Savior. We do not do them to earn our way to anything for we know we can never do enough to repay Jesus Christ. We can never do enough to clear away the taint of our sins. It is only in the covering of Jesus Christ that we are made clean and can stand in the presence of a perfect and holy God. Think about it. Your and my salvation is the greatest miracle of all! Let us remember, always remember, what we deserve on our own. Let us remember, always remember, that it is Jesus that sets us free from our just punishment. Let us remember that we are living on the pardon of Christ. Let us forever remember that so that we are not proud in spirit but forever humble in spirit, poor in spirit, contrite in spirit. Amen and Amen.

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