MATTHEW 5:3

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.


We want to be blessed. This simple statement is more true than we realize. The idea of blessing conjures up many ideas in our minds. We think of getting stuff–that being “blessed” means you have a lot of possessions. We think a blessing is something you say over a meal or after someone sneezes you may tell them “bless you”. We all want to be blessed, but do we really understand what this means? Jesus begins his most famous sermon (the “Sermon on the Mount”) showing us what it really means to be “blessed”.

As we approach this sermon, it is vital that we see what the author, Matthew, is showing us about Jesus. He is drawing our attention to something very significant. He starts his section out by saying that Jesus “went up on the mountain” and then Jesus proceeds to deliver a new code of living (law)–this action is a clear picture of the actions of Moses, who ascended a mountain and came down with God’s law for His People. Matthew is displaying Jesus as the better Moses with a better law.

So, how does this better law message begin? It starts with Jesus laying before us eight characteristics of a community with whom God is pleased; in other words, evidences of a blessed community. This section functions as a mirror for us to allow God to examine us, shape us, convict us and change us by His Spirit to more fully reflect who we are in Jesus and how we operate through Jesus.

Jesus starts by saying, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” We read this and may think that this is talking about material wealth–that poverty is an indicator of spiritual maturity or God’s pleasure. This is not what this passage is stating. It is much more radical and far reaching than simply a financial statement. There is however a great help that we receive when we ponder on the posture of one who is materially poor. This person’s dependence on others is understood to a greater degree than those who have much and are materially rich. The materially rich tend to not realize their dependence as much as someone who is materially poor. It is this posture that we must examine more thoroughly, for it is the precise posture of mind and heart that are required to enter the Kingdom of Heaven.

Association With the Lowly

When we envision a blessed life, we probably don’t rush to imagine a life associated with the lowly–the poor, the rejected, the despised. However, over the course of Jesus’ ministry in the public sphere, he was often negatively associated with the marginal edges of society (Luke 5:30, Luke 7:36-49). Many who were in influential positions thought of Jesus as a drunk and a glutton (Matthew 11:19). At an even greater level, Jesus who is God, lowered himself (Philippians 2) becoming poor (2 Corinthians 8:9) to be with us–he didn’t shout from the heavens, but came down and walked with us. The poor in spirit associate with Jesus through their association with the lowly and the despised.

Weakness On Display

There is a marvelous freedom that the poor in spirit have, in that, they are able to put their weakness on display. In our corrupted state, we continually try to posture ourselves over others or display our strong points while minimizing or hiding our weakness. When we do this, it shows that we view weakness as a liability and not an asset. The poor in spirit have had an inversion of this mindset, to the point where my weakness is put on display liberally and becomes a way for me to boast in God’s strength, not my own.

God has lowered himself to come to us.

Courageous Dependence

Courage is an admirable quality and one that is sought after, but how do we acquire courage? Some gain courage by puffing their chest and convincing themselves that they have what it takes–this sort of courage is a manufactured courage and artificial. Others may rely on courage from other sources–a good career, a faithful spouse, healthy children, sharp intellect, physical prowess, etc. This sort of courage is conditional, because it is based on the conditions of those things from which we draw our courage. The poor in spirit have a courage that is neither manufactured nor conditional. Unlike all other forms of courage–which rely on the trust of some created thing, the courage of the poor in spirit relies on their dependence on God.

Receivers, Not Achievers

Paul states that everything we have has been given to us (1 Corinthians 4:7). Every single thing–your talent, your family, your job, your mental capacity, your possessions. He asks a rhetorical question in this passage saying: “What do you have that you did not receive?” To which the answer is “nothing”! The poor in spirit see themselves primarily as receivers. The counter to this is reflected in the mindset that places achievement at the center of someone’s life. Accomplishment, praise, acclaim–they all are directed toward the person who achieved. This can lead us to one of two places–either we boast because we have achieved much or we despair because we have achieved little. Either way, our hope is in us. Kingdom People look dramatically different–a people who boast not in themselves but in One who is truly worthy of their boasting (1 Corinthians 3:21b-22).

All these things are evidences of the poor in spirit and they all stem from a new heart with new affections. This comes out of a radical work that God does in the heart, where he reveals the goodness, the truth and the beauty of Jesus to us. In the Gospel, we see clearly that we are ‘poor in spirit’ (we have nothing to offer God) and yet, God has lowered himself to come to us and give Himself for us. We are shaped by this reality and in this we are blessed beyond belief.

 


IN COMMUNITY

This week, as you reflect on the message, utilize this section to help you apply what has been taught to your life. Think of friends, co-workers, neighbors, family etc., that you could meet with to have a time of mutual sharing to discuss the implications of the message.

BLESS RHYTHMS

This simple acronym (BLESS, B - Bless, L - Listen, E - Eat, S - Speak, S - Sabbath) should help you to frame your life according to the great commandment “love God” (Matthew 22:37) and the expression of that commandment in loving your neighbor (John 13:34). Each time you meet, start by discussing the rhythms of your life according to B.L.E.S.S.

Bless
Intentionally bless: Christ-followers, non-believers and those different than you.

Listen
Listen to what God is saying to you, through His Word and others.

Eat
Share a meal with a Christ-follower and also a non-believer.

Speak
Talk to God through prayer and to others about Jesus through witness.

Sabbath
Be intentional about taking time to both rest and recreate.

 
 

An Examined Life

As we continue to reflect on the sermon, allow these questions to guide your discussion with others concerning the conviction points and what you sensed God’s Spirit was doing in you through the preached Word. Jot notes to help you remember.

What was God doing in you through the message on Sunday?

Describe how you’ve grown in your understanding of the Gospel (good news of Jesus)?

How are you going to respond to God’s Word in your life?