What does it mean to be “poor in spirit”? In Matt. 13:44 Jesus tells this parable, “The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure hidden in the field, which a man found and hid; and from joy over it he goes and sells all that he has, and buys that field.” To be poor in spirit is to realize that nothing we have is worth more than the kingdom of God. Knowing this, we become willing to part with anything we have if it hinders us from receiving the kingdom. This is why Jesus said, “No one of you can be my disciple who does not give up all his own possessions.” (Luke 14:33)
When we think of possessions, our minds automatically go to things like our homes, cars, big screen televisions, and the luxuries with which we live, and this is certainly part of it. But Jesus goes much further when He says, “If anyone loves even his mother and father more than me, he cannot be my disciple”. Jesus is also including our families in this equation. Do you love your children more than Him? What about your health? If he decided to test your faith with disease, would you still trust Him? When Jesus speaks of possessions, He means everything; our careers, our reputations, even if our aspirations are to be leaders in the Christian community, all of these are to be handed over if He asks. The idea of “possessions” is so complete that it includes everything we hold valuable. Nothing is to be more valuable to us than Christ.
Being poor in spirit is directly related to our faith. We know that, “without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is the rewarder of those who seek Him.”(Heb 11:6). Without faith you could never come to Him, because believing that He is and that He will reward those who seek Him is an aspect of faith. If you don’t believe this, than you will not come to Him and thus you do not have faith. We also must realize that it is not the “coming” by which we are justified; it is the “faith”, but the “faith” produces the “coming.”
The same applies to being poor in spirit. The only way we can be “poor in spirit” is to truly believe that He is more valuable than anything we have, and believing that He is more valuable than our possesions is an aspect of our faith also. The entire chapter of Hebrews 11 is about faith, and it lists what some of God people we’re willing to sacrifice because of their faith in God. Abraham was willing to sacrifice his son Isaac (Heb. 11:17) Moses “chose rather to endure ill-treatment with the people of God, than to enjoy the passing pleasures of sin; considering the reproach of Christ greater riches, than the treasures of Egypt (Heb 11:25,26).
“Still others had trials of mockings and scourgings, yes, and of chains and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sawn in two, were tempted, were slain with the sword. They wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins, being destitute, afflicted, tormented– of whom the world was not worthy. They wandered in deserts and mountains, in dens and caves of the earth (Heb. 11:36-38).”
Why would these people be willing to give up so much? It was because, by faith, they became poor in spirit. Nothing in this life was worth sparing if it meant not inheriting the kingdom of God.
When the rich young ruler came to Jesus and said, “What must I do to be saved” Jesus told him to sell all he had and to give it to the poor. Jesus was not telling him, do these works and you will be saved, because works cannot save us. Instead, Jesus knew that His heart lacked faith, and was therefore not poor in spirit. He did not believe that following Jesus was more valuable than the things of this world.
Being poor in spirit is not taking vows of poverty, which can be acts of pretense, or despising the blessings God has given us. Instead it is a condition of the heart. As Matthew Henry said,
“this poverty of spirit is a gracious disposition of soul, by which we are emptied of self, in order to our being filled with Jesus Christ.” He also said it was, “To be contentedly poor, willing to be emptied of worldly wealth, if God orders that to be our lot; to bring our mind to our condition, when it is a low condition. Many are poor in the world, but high in spirit, poor and proud, murmuring and complaining, and blaming their lot, but we must accommodate ourselves to our poverty, we must know how to be abased, Phil. 4:12”.
Today as we consider whether we are poor in spirit, may the Lord use this meditation to show us the true state of our hearts before Him? May He work in us a “spirit of poverty” regardless of our outward state. May we be humbly willing to serve our Lord wherever He may lead. May nothing be more valuable to us than our precious Savior. May we understand that we have nothing of value apart from Christ. Let us realize that we are the “unprofitable servants” (Luke 17:10), as we remember that the thief on the cross speaks of our condition when he said, “We deserve to die for our evil deeds, but this man hasn’t done anything wrong.” Yet Christ responded to him “Today you will be with me in paradise”.
Hold nothing more valuable than this pearl of great price. Be willing to sell all you have to purchase it, if it is required of you. Such actions will not merit you anything toward salvation, but they prove that your faith is a living faith, by which you are justified, thus showing that you are poor in spirit and blessed because yours is the kingdom of God.