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Poor in Spirit

Matthew 5:3 (ESV) … “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”

To be poor in spirit means to be humble, to have a correct estimate of oneself (Rom. 12:3). It does not mean to be “poor spirited” and have no backbone at all! “Poor in spirit” is the opposite of the world’s attitudes of self-praise and self-assertion. It is not a false humility that says, “I am not worth anything, I can’t do anything!” It is honesty with ourselves: we know ourselves, accept ourselves, and try to be ourselves to the glory of God.[1]

Jesus teaches that you know that God’s blessing is upon you if you are “poor in spirit,” that is, if you acknowledge your “spiritual bankruptcy,” as D. A. Carson summarizes. Put differently, you are poor in spirit if you know there is nothing in you—not family ties, respect in the community, occupation, or so-called “good” works or personal “holiness”—that is valuable enough to commend you to God. Put illustratively, you are blessed when you see you’re just a beggar coming to the door of the kingdom without anything to give to get you in, and so you are pounding on the door, appealing to the King, “O Lord, let me in; O Lord, give me what is needed for entrance—your grace and mercy.”[2]

[1] Wiersbe, W. W. (1996). The Bible exposition commentary (Vol. 1, p. 21). Victor Books. [2] O’Donnell, D. S. (2013). Matthew: All Authority in Heaven and on Earth (R. K. Hughes, Ed.; pp. 110–111). Crossway.


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