Pity the poor pastor who was delivering his sermon when a gentlemen in the back pew turned his head to one side, put his hand to his ear, and said, “Louder.” The preacher raised his voice somewhat and continued with his sermon, which was not too interesting. After a few minutes the man said again, “Louder!” The preacher strained even more and continued on, but by now the sermon had become quite boring. The man said again, “Louder!” At this point a man on the front row couldn’t stand it any longer and yelled back to the man in the rear. “What’s the matter, can’t you hear?” “No,” said the man in the back. “Well,” said the man down front, “move over, I’m coming back to join you.”
As the offering plate was passed, a little boy held tightly to the money in his hand. After the service he headed straight for the pastor and handed him the quarter. The minister asked, “Why didn’t you put this in the offering plate?”
The little boy said, “I wanted to make sure you got it because I know you really need it. My daddy said you’re the poorest preacher he’s ever heard.”
Louis the XIV was the king who said, “I am the State.” He was the king who built Versailles. Who was called “The Sun King” because of his glittering, lavish reign. Thousands of people came to his funeral service, filling the Cathedral and spilling out into the square beyond. When the Bishop of Paris mounted the pulpit to preach the eulogy for the Great “Sun King,” he spoke just four words: “Only God is great!” Then he left the pulpit to continue the service. This is exactly what Jesus is trying to tell us. “Blessed are the poor in spirit . . .” Blessed are those who live in unconditional, absolute dependence on the greatness of God.
Christ begins his sermon with blessings, for he came into the world to bless us, as the great High Priest of our profession; as the blessed Melchizedec; as He in whom all the families of the earth should be bless.
Luke, unlike Matthew, says simply, “Blessed are the poor.” It has been disputed whether Christ meant the poor in reference to the things of this life, or to the humble. The gospel is said to be preached to the poor. It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.” (Mark 10:25) The Old Testament even predicted that the Messiah would preach to the poor, Isa 61:1. However, for Matthew to be poor in spirit is to have a humble opinion of ourselves; To be sensible that we are sinners, and have no righteousness of our own; To be willing to be saved only by the rich grace and mercy of God; To be willing to be where God places us, to bear what he lays on us, to go where he bids us, and to die when he commands;
To be willing to be in his hands, and to feel that we deserve no favor from him. It is opposed to pride, vanity, and ambition.
After the Civil War, much of the South lay in ruins. People who owned mansions in once proud cities found themselves unable to bear the cost of restoring their homes. They said they were too poor to paint and too proud to whitewash. Pride does often get in the way of what needs to be done. Sometimes, it even gets in the way of things we really want to do.
Any experienced minister or counselor will tell you that often the aggrieved partner in a marriage will say, “He (She) made a fool of me!” It tells you that someone’s pride has been wounded. There is a good kind of pride. We take pride in our work, in our character, in our service to humanity. That’s all right. But pride unchecked can handicap us in many ways. Most important of all, it gets in the way of our trusting God.
“In the pride of your heart you say, “I am a god; I sit on the throne of a god
in the heart of the seas.” (Ezekiel 28:2) Truly, “blessed are the poor in spirit.”
BLESSED ARE THE POOR IN SPIRIT, is designed to rectify the ruinous mistakes of a blind and carnal world. Blessedness is the thing which people pretend to pursue; Who will make us able to see good? Many are asking, “Who can show us any good?” Let the light of your face shine upon us, O LORD. (Psalm 4:6) But most mistake the end and form a wrong notion of happiness; and then no wonder that they miss the way; they choose their own delusions, and court a shadow.
Blessed is the poor in spirit because it is a description of a believer’s inner condition. When describing a person in God’s will, it is virtually equivalent to “saved.” The Beatitudes, also, are not primarily promises to the individual but a description of him. They do not show a man how to be saved, but describe the characteristics manifested by one who is born again. Poor in spirit. Opposite of proud in spirit. Those who have recognized their poverty in spiritual things and have allowed Christ to meet their need have become heirs of the kingdom of heaven.
Laodicea was poor in spirituals, wretchedly and miserably poor, and yet rich in spirit, so well increased with goods, as to have need of nothing. On the other hand, Paul was rich in spirituals, excelling most in gifts and graces, and yet poor in spirit, the least of the apostles, less than the least of all saints, and nothing in his own account. It is to come off from all confidence in our own righteousness and strength, that we may depend only upon the merit of Christ for our justification, and the spirit and grace of Christ for our sanctification. That broken and contrite spirit with which the publican cried for mercy to a poor sinner, is that poverty of spirit.
The world’s values differ from God’s: “God says, ‘Blessed are the poor in spirit,’ but we say ‘blessed are the achievers.’ God says, ‘Blessed are those who mourn,’ but we say ‘blessed are the self-fulfilled.’ Jesus says ‘Blessed are the merciful,’ but we say ‘blessed are the manipulators’… Jesus challenges the very selfishness that determines so much of our social behavior.”
Blessed are the poor in spirit, they are gentle lambs among wolves. Blessed are all the un-proud; they already have what the prideful seek. Blessed are these who are both vulnerable and mighty, who live out the hope of peace among so many angers and discontentments. Blessed are these tender warriors the world doesn’t recognize.