Unlike those who are self-satisfied and see themselves as spiritually rich, the poor in spirit know that they are morally bankrupt and nothing in this world can give them what they truly need. This knowledge is a core conviction of saving faith.
- The Sermon on the Mount is a very important body of teaching given by Jesus at a time when he was very popular.
- Jesus intends to show his disciples the issues they will face if they want to be children of God.
- He contrasts his teaching with the teaching of the Pharisees.
- Luke 6 is the same sermon given in shorter version. We can use Luke to understand Matthew and vice versa.
- Jesus speaks cryptically. He makes concise provocative statements that we must think about to understand.
- Jesus makes strong categorical, black and white statements that ultimately reflect the end of a process of struggle, growth and maturity.
- In the beatitudes, Jesus confronts us with fundamental convictions of saving faith.
Each beatitude has 4 features:
- A beatitude tells us WHO is blessed.
- A beatitude tells us WHY such a person is blessed.
- A beatitude tells us ONLY these people are blessed.
- There is something surprising or ironic about these people being blessed.
1Seeing the crowds, he went up on the mountain, and when he sat down, his disciples came to him. 2And he opened his mouth and taught them, saying: 3“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” – Matthew 5:1-3
“Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God.” – Luke 6:20
Matthew makes clear what is implied in Luke. The issue is not how much material wealth you have, the issue is a quality of your spirit.
The Kingdom of Heaven
- The “kingdom of heaven” refers to the time when God will set his Messiah on the Davidic throne and give him dominion and authority over all creation. At that time, all the people of God throughout history will be raised from the dead and will live in peace and righteousness under the Messiah.
- Mark uses the phrase the kingdom of God as a synonym for “eternal life” (Mark 9:43-47; Mark 10:17-25).
- Most of the beatitudes use the future tense. Only 5:3 and 5:10 use the present tense.
- We use the present tense because the inheritance is theirs now, even though it is still a future event.
Poor in Spirit
- In the spiritual sense, everyone in this life is poor because true riches are only found in the kingdom of God.
- In the poetic and metaphorical language of the Bible, the wealthy are pictured as those who have rejected God in favor of the riches of this world; the poor are pictured as those who have found God and are not trusting in the riches of this world.
- The key distinction is not the size of your bank account, but whether you recognize where true riches are to be found.
- The poor in spirit understand that nothing in this life can make them truly rich.
As strange as it may seem, those who are in the seemingly undesirable situation of knowing in their hearts that nothing in this world can give them what they truly need, they are are actually in a highly desirable situation, because they and they alone will inherit a glorious future from God. They will find true riches as citizens in the kingdom of God.
Contrast with the Pharisees
- Jesus accused the Pharisees of being self-righteous and self-satisfied. They see themselves as spiritually rich (e.g. Parable of the Pharisee and the Tax gatherer, Luke 18:9-14).
- Compare with Matthew 9:11-13.
- Jesus didn’t come to call those who think they are righteous and holy already (the rich in spirit). Jesus came for those who know they are morally and spiritually bankrupt.
Those who are poor in spirit have the 4 core convictions of saving faith.
- Saving faith involves a genuine desire for holiness in and of itself. What do you want to be saved from? Those with saving faith want to be saved from their sin and made holy and worthy.
- Saving faith includes a genuine understanding that left to myself I am totally incapable of obtaining holiness. I am trapped as a slave to my sin and I need a redeemer. There’s nothing I can do to free myself.
- Saving includes a genuine understanding that God owes me nothing and I am totally unworthy of any gift from God. I can’t earn God’s favor, no amount of law-keeping will justify me. There’s no divine spark within that requires God to save me. His salvation is an act of grace and mercy.
- Saving faith is a firm trust that God — through the work of Jesus Christ — both intends to and will in fact bring me into holiness in the age to come.
In the beatitudes, Jesus confronts us with fundamental convictions of saving faith.
- The poor in spirit want the life God offers in His kingdom when He establishes peace, justice and righteousness through His Messiah.
- The poor in spirit recognize that they are incapable of obtaining that life or holiness on their own or by their own efforts. Not only do they know do they know that they can’t earn it through law keeping, they recognize that all the wealth and comforts of this world are counterfeit and true life is to be found in the kingdom of God.
- We are poor in spirit precisely because we long for the life of God and the holiness He offers.
- We know God is not required to save us and He owes us nothing.