February 15, 2015
Audio Commentary by David Daniel
The Poor in Spirit
Scripture: Matthew 5:3
Lesson Goal: To learn what it means to be “poor in spirit.”
A teacher or rabbi commonly sat when teaching. To sit down was to speak with an authoritative and official voice. Jesus Christ spoke with divine authority, as He delivered the Sermon on the Mount. Those in
the multitude may have tried to gain a place in the audience, but the standards that Jesus spoke of and taught would not apply to them unless they belonged to Him.
An important word that was relevant to Jesus’ congregation on that day, and is still relevant for our Life Focus classes today, is: “Trying to apply Jesus’ teaching without receiving Him as Lord and Savior is futile”
(MacArthur). The transforming power of the gospel is the result of the indwelling power of God in a person’s life.
Let us remember:
“The beatitudes set forth the balanced and variegated character [distinct qualities] of Christian people. These are not eight separate and distinct groups of disciples [Matthew 5:3-11], some of whom are meek, whiles others are merciful and yet others are called upon to endure persecution. They are rather eight qualities of the same group who, at one and the same time, are meek and merciful, poor in spirit and pure in heart, mourning and hungry, peacemakers and persecuted. Further, the group exhibiting those marks is not an elitist group, a small spiritual aristocracy remote from the common run of Christians. On the contrary, the beatitudes are Christ’s own specification of what every Christian ought to be. All the qualities are to characterize all His followers, just as the nine-fold fruit of the spirit, which Paul lists, is to ripen in every Christian’s character” [See Galatians 5:22-23] (Stott).
As we begin our study of the beatitudes, we notice that each of these
begins with “Blessed.” This word is the Greek “makarios” meaning
happy, fortunate, blissful. In our context, the word makarios means
happy, but also more than happy; it means highly content. It is a state
of joy and well-being that does not depend on physical, temporary
circumstances. “Blessed” speaks of a happiness brought about by a
deep-seated joy that is initiated by the Spirit of God inside the hearts
and lives of His followers. “This is the basic description of the believer’s inner condition as a result of the work of God” (Hindson). The beatitudes detail and describe the characteristics of one who has been saved.
(V3) “Blessed are the poor in spirit, For theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”
• As we read this section of the Sermon on the Mount, it would be wise for us to once again remember those who have made known their opposition to Jesus. Who are those who are leading the charge against Jesus?
• From past lessons and studies, how would you describe these who oppose Jesus, both in their actions and attitudes?
• Read Matthew 5:3. How does this verse speak to those who are opposing Jesus?
(V3) “the poor in spirit”
The word translated “poor” is the same word translated “beggar” in
Luke 16:19-22 speaking of the rich man and Lazarus.
Who are the poor in spirit? Dwight Pentecost explains: “The poor in
spirit, then, are the people who have no merit or righteousness of their own which to stand before God. Due to this lack of merit, they cannot offer God anything in themselves to earn entrance into the kingdom.
They are characterized by utter dependence on God.” Please read Psalm 34:18 and 51:17.
Jesus was contrasting true righteousness with the righteousness of the Pharisees. The righteousness of the Pharisees led them to be exceedingly proud, and they offered their own righteousness to God. Please read again Matthew 5:20. The truly righteous are those who recognize that they
have no righteousness; so therefore, they have turned to God to supply the need and meet the demands of righteousness through Him and not of themselves. Read Isaiah 64:6; 2 Corinthians 5:21; Philippians 3:8-10.
• If the demand of the law is absolute righteousness, how can we ever satisfy such a demand?
In a very practical way, Jesus wanted His disciples to understand the
difference between true righteousness and the kind of righteousness
exemplified by the Pharisees. He is making a contrast of being “poor in spirit” and full of self. The Preachers’ Outline and Sermon Bible helps
us to understand what is meant by poor in spirit:
1. To acknowledge our utter helplessness before God, our spiritual poverty, our spiritual need. We are solely dependent upon God to meet our need.
2. To acknowledge our utter lack in facing life and eternity apart from God. To acknowledge that the real blessings of a godly life and eternity come only from a right relationship with God.
3. To acknowledge our utter lack of superiority before all others and our spiritual deadness before God. To acknowledge that we are no better, no righter, no more superior than the next person, no matter what we have achieved in this world [fame, fortune, power]. Our attitude toward others is not proud and haughty, not superior and overbearing. To be “poor in spirit” is to acknowledge that every human being is a real person just like everyone else. The person who is “poor in spirit” approaches life in humility and appreciation, not as though life owes him. He has been given the privilege of living; therefore, he journeys through life with a humble attitude. A spirit of appreciation is the result of the awareness of God’s righteousness in his life.
• Is it possible to become prideful in things that we (true believers) do for the Lord? Things such as 80-hours of prayer, attending church, standing in front of people, etc.
• Please explain how we must guard everything we do against sinful pride.
• Please explain this statement: Self-righteousness will go no farther than death, but true righteousness lives forever.
(V3) “For theirs is the kingdom of heaven”
Please read John 5:24. The beatitudes are not a line of pick-and-choose where some are chosen while others are omitted. We must take them as a whole. The “poor in spirit” realize they cannot please God on their own. The result of being truly poor in spirit “is the kingdom of heaven.” Notice the word is. The true believer already experiences the blessing of being a part of God’s family.
Warren Wiersbe offers some great wisdom concerning verse three:
To be poor in spirit means to be humble, to have a correct
estimate of oneself (Romans 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 worth nothing; 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.
• Please prayerfully consider someone in your own life who is an example of the genuineness of “poor in spirit,” as it is demonstrated through humility. What are some of the qualities of this kind of spirit?
• How does a spirit of self-righteousness, arrogance, cockiness, or just a spirit of “look at me” hinder the witness of a believer?
• Explain this thought: Humility is the one thing that when you think you have it, you’re beginning to lose it.
• What does it mean to be “poor in spirit”?