“‘Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven’” (Matthew 5:3).
Poverty of spirit means recognizing how truly deficient we are apart from God. It means seeing ourselves as we really are: spiritually lost, hopeless, and helpless. Without the gospel of Jesus Christ, everyone is spiritually impoverished, regardless of his or her material accomplishments, educational achievements, or even religious knowledge and church activities.
The “poor in spirit” are people who have recognized their spiritual destitution and their total inability to save themselves—their complete dependence on God. They know their only hope of salvation is to repent and ask for forgiveness, leaning on the sovereign grace and mercy of God. Such a person knows he has no spiritual merit of his own and that his personal strength or wisdom is insufficient to earn him lasting spiritual reward.
“In spirit” expresses the understanding that poverty of spirit can’t be merely a hypocritical, outward act. Being a genuine spiritual beggar reflects true humility, not some phony, pretentious, mild-mannered behavior. Real poverty of spirit is what the prophet said the Lord looks for and affirms: “But to this one I will look, to him who is humble and contrite of spirit, and who trembles at My word” (Isa. 66:2; cf. Pss. 34:18; 51:17).
Augustine in his Confessions says pride was his greatest barrier to salvation. Until he realized that his achievements and possessions were nothing, Christ could do nothing for him. It’s the same for any who would be poor in spirit.
What specific items or attitudes threaten your ability to remain “poor in spirit”? How does a person maintain a comfort level in God’s presence without losing the perspective of being undeserving of the privilege?