How do we define poverty? For many, poverty is defined as a lack of basic necessities… things like food, clean water, housing, transportation, and medical attention. For others, poverty means a lack of physical or mental well-being—overall health. Poverty can also be thought of as a lack of social connection through friendships, family, or a support network. The dictionary defines poverty as a state of being poor…
However you choose to define it, poverty means that we are lacking!
So what about spiritual poverty? Can we be poor in spirit? Scripture records that the very first instruction Yeshua (Jesus) gave us in His Sermon on the Mount is regarding spiritual poverty, telling us that we are blessed if we are poor in spirit! “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven.”—Matthew 5.3 These are not the first words that we would expect to hear out of Yeshua’s mouth as He took center stage amongst the multitudes at His famous conference on the mountainside overlooking the Sea of Galilee.
How can we be blessed and poor at the same time?
Have you ever wondered about that passage? In Western culture we equate being blessed with earthly wealth—not lacking in physical needs or desires. We perceive being blessed as the polar opposite of poverty, or being poor. When we examine the meaning of the word blessed in the context of this scripture, we find that the Greek word here is Makarios, which means being in a true, deep state of contentment, or happiness. So this word blessed is all about being completely content and satisfied. When Yeshua began His beatitudes discourse and uttered the first word, blessed, He was saying that we can find true contentment in what He was about to tell us… I can imagine that the next few words were a bit perplexing to those who were in attendance that day. In essence He told His audience: “You are a truly and absolutely content person if you are poor in spirit—if your inner being, your spirit man, is found in a state of poverty.” If poverty is a state of being poor, then when Yeshua said poor in His opening sentence to the beatitudes, He meant that we should be in a desperate state for His Kingdom. Why would God give His Kingdom to the poor in spirit? Because He gives it to those who have internalized that they need it more than life itself. The Kingdom of Heaven belongs to the poor in spirit, because they are the ones who realize their own spiritual poverty. Being poor in spirit allows a person to recognize the need for a Redeemer—for someone to pay for what they cannot obtain on their own. Being poor in spirit means recognizing our inability to buy, earn, deserve, or purchase spiritual blessings… and that without the intervention of God, we are blocked in our ability to grow spiritually. So how does one become poor in spirit? You become poor in spirit by recognizing this need and turning to God who is able to provide the spiritual life that we lack. Without spiritual poverty we would never recognize a need for help, and never grow spiritually. When Yeshua declared, “for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven,” it was because He was there on that mountainside to declare His Kingdom to the world—an everlasting, eternal Kingdom where those who followed Him and the instructions He was about to give them would rule and reign throughout eternity. Yeshua was preparing the hearts of His listeners that day on the mountain as He spoke those famous first words… “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven.” In essence He was saying, “I need to lay a foundation for the instruction that I am about to give to you today. In order for you to truly understand these words you must first prepare your hearts—your spirit man. You must be desperate—totally hungry and thirsty for what I am about to say, because what I am about to tell you concerns the Kingdom. If you will humble yourselves and hear My words with truly desperate hearts, you will then be ready to receive with understanding and revelation, all that I am about to instruct you in so that YOU can rule and reign in My eternal Kingdom—the Kingdom of Heaven!”