Blessed Are the Poor in Spirit
"God blesses those who are poor and realize their need for him, for the Kingdom of Heaven is theirs."
The Sermon on the Mount begins with The Beatitudes of Jesus (from the Latin word beatus, which means "blessed"). These statements affirm that certain types of people are blessed by God. The Greek word translated here as "God blesses" is makarios, which can also mean "happy." Jesus' point is that certain kinds of people experience life's goodness and joy because of their connection to the kingdom of heaven.
Yet the kinds of people Jesus points out as blessed are not those we ordinarily think of as happy. The kingdom of God turns life upside down, inviting us into a new way of being in the world.
For example, Jesus says, "God blesses those who are poor and realize their need for him." This translation captures the nuance of the original, which reads more literally, "Blessed are the poor in spirit." To be poor in spirit is to be aware of our great need for God. We realize that our hearts can never be satisfied apart from God's presence in our lives. Thus we come to God in a place of ultimate neediness.
This awareness of our need makes us ready to receive God's rule over our lives. We come to God on God's own terms. We don't have anything to offer him other than our poverty of spirit, our neediness that he alone can fulfill.
Our poverty of spirit is beautifully expressed in the third verse of the classic hymn "Rock of Ages" by Augustus Toplady (1776):
Nothing in my hand I bring,
Simply to the cross I cling;
Naked, come to Thee for dress;
Helpless look to Thee for grace;
Foul, I to the fountain fly;
Wash me, Savior, or I die.
QUESTIONS FOR REFLECTION: When in your life have you experienced poverty of spirit? What helps you get in touch with how much you need God?
PRAYER: Dear Lord, I try so hard to be self-sufficient, to be "rich in spirit." But ultimately my efforts to rely on myself fail. By your grace, I realize just how much I need you. So I come to you, not full of riches or full of myself, but empty, needy, truly poor in spirit.
And you, Lord, meet me in my poverty. You not only meet my needs, but you pour out blessings upon me. You take my poverty of spirit and give back the riches of your Spirit. You uphold me when I'm weak. You comfort me when I'm afraid. You make your kingdom available to me, graciously reigning over my life.
All praise be to you, dear Lord, because you invite those who are needy into your kingdom so that you might bless them with your inexhaustible riches. Amen.