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Thursday, March 2, 2017

Sermon on the Mount, Day 3 of 40: The Poor in Spirit

Matthew 5: 3
Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Who are the poor in spirit?  In Greek there are two words for poor, penes and ptochos.  Penes describes a person who lives and works day to day, barely making ends meet, barely getting by.  Ptochos describes someone who lives in abject poverty, someone who has nothing at all and is forced to beg.  They are utterly helpless.  This is the word used for poor in Matthew 5:3.

Jesus is not calling for material poverty.  Being homeless and without means is never a good thing and Jesus would never have claimed material poverty was good.

The poverty that Jesus says is blessed is the poverty of the spirit.  Poverty of the spirit occurs when  people realize that their own efforts will not result in their salvation.  The poor in spirit are blessed because, realizing how helpless they are, they have recognized their need for God and have put their trust in God.   The true spiritual life begins at this point.

After seeing a vision of the glory of God on the throne, the prophet Isaiah cried out, "Woe is me, I am lost, for I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among people of unclean lips; yet my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts."  (Isaiah 6:5)

This is the realization of all who are poor in spirit.  Only when we are able to see who we truly are,
are we able to confess our sins  and live in the light of the Spirit.  The Kingdom of Heaven belongs only to these "enlightened" people.

Jesus illustrated this in his parable of the Pharisee and the tax collector (Luke 18: 9-14).  "The Pharisee, standing by himself, was praying thus, "God, I thank you that I am not like other people: thieves, rogues, adulterers, or even like this tax collector.  I fast twice a week, I give a tenth of all my income." But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even look up to heaven, but was beating his breast and saying, "God be merciful to me, a sinner!"

Jesus continued, " I tell you, this man [the tax collector] went down to his home justified rather than the other [the Pharisee]; for all who exalt themselves will be humbled, but all who humble themselves will be exalted."

Tomorrow we study those who mourn.

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