Beatitudes: Blessed are Poor in Spirit – 8 Part Series

The Beatitudes: An Overview

Matthew 5: 3 -12 – “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled. Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy. Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God. Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”

  • Beatitudes are referred to, as the account of the ‘Sermon on the Mount’ preached by Jesus Christ, recorded in Matthew 5: 3-12 in the Bible.
  • It is one of the most quoted passages of the Bible.
  • A similar list of beatitudes is also given in Luke 6:20-23.
  • This bible study guide is an eight part series on the Beatitudes.

What is the meaning of the word ‘Beatitude’? And how does it relate to the word ‘Blessed’ used in Matthew 5?

  • The word ‘Beatitude’ is not found in the English Bible. But it is derived from the Latin word ‘Beatus’ meaning ‘Happy’ or ‘Blessed’, the meaning of which is very close to the original Greek word that Jesus used during His sermon on the mount.
  • The Greek word for ‘Blessed’ is ‘Makarioi’ which means ‘happy, supremely blessed and fortunate’.

Before we get looking into the beatitudes, let us first examine the similarities and the differences in the gospel accounts of Matthew 5:3-12 and Luke 6:20-23.

  • In Matthew, all the 8 beatitudes are written in the third person (‘those’, ‘theirs’), except for the last one.

On the other hand, in Luke, the Beatitudes are in the second person (“you”), followed by the list of ‘Woes’ as well. (Luke 6:24-26)

  • The location where Jesus preached the sermon are different in both accounts. (Mat 5:1 – ‘On the Mount’ and Luke 6:17 – ‘On the plain’)

Bible scholars differ on their views regarding these two accounts. They wonder if they are,

    • Different records of the same sermon, or
    • Two different sermons with similar content

People often tend to pick on such differences in order to discredit the authenticity and reliability of the gospel records. But paradoxically these minor differences actually serve as an evidence of the genuineness of these records. Other than these minor differences, there is a remarkable unity and order of thought and substance in these gospels.

The Beatitudes – The Great Paradox

  • The Beatitudes are a great contrast to the worldly notion of ‘blessedness’ and ‘happiness’. Therefore, it’s not surprising that it does not make sense to the carnal mind and almost seems contradictory to it. “For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” (1st Cor 1:18)
  • The Beatitudes and the Sermon on the Mount also defied the great expectations of an earthly kingdom, which the Jews in Jesus’ time assumed the Messiah would establish.

For, how can one establish a worldly kingdom by/with the weak and the meek? How could one be merciful to their enemies? How can one be a peacemaker, if they were to overthrow a kingdom (the Roman Empire)? How could one allow others to persecute and insult you and yet remain calm?

It is obvious that Jesus was not talking about an earthly kingdom. But He was promising the ‘Kingdom of Heaven’. So let us examine the characteristics required to inherit the ‘Kingdom of Heaven’ in the next eight parts of this bible study guide.

Part 1: Blessed are Poor in Spirit

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

  • ‘Poor in Spirit’ is a difficult phrase to understand. The word for ‘poor’ in Greek is ‘Ptochos’ which literally means having nothing, reduced to begging, like a beggar, totally broke. (Luke 6:20 uses only ‘poor’ in his version of sermon.)
  • While monetary poverty can also be inferred from these verses, what Jesus really meant was spiritual poverty.
  • One can be financially poor and yet be arrogant and prideful in spirit, or one can be financially rich and yet be poor in the spirit. (King David in the Old Testament is a great example because, in spite of him being the King of Israel, he had a humble and contrite heart/spirit.) (Also read – Jesus and Young Rich Ruler)
  • ‘Spiritual poor/poverty’ is exactly what is implied. It is a state where one realizes that they have nothing of their own and need constant help from God. (Also read, “If You are Willing – Jesus Heals the Leper”)
  • We have to be careful here not to compare outward modesty with these characteristics. Being “poor in Spirit” is to have a humble and broken/contrite heart that constantly seeks help and forgiveness from God for their very existence. (Seeking God: David’s Prayer in Psalms 27:4)
  • This image is in stark contrast to the self-contained, self-sufficient spirit which the world longs for and thrives in. But in the Kingdom of Heaven, being poor in spirit is the most important qualification.

Isaiah 66:1-2: “Thus says the LORD, “Heaven is My throne and the earth is My footstool. Where then is a house you could build for Me? And where is a place that I may rest? “For My hand made all these things, Thus all these things came into being,” declares the LORD. “But to this one I will look, To him who is humble and contrite of spirit, and who trembles at My word.”

Isaiah 57:15: “For thus says the high and exalted One Who lives forever, whose name is Holy, “I dwell on a high and holy place, And also with the contrite and lowly of spirit In order to revive the spirit of the lowly and to revive the heart of the contrite.”

  • Psalms 51 is a great example of a man who is yearning for God’s spirit. This Psalm is King David’s confession and repentance after he committed adultery with Bathsheba.

Ps 51:10: “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.”

Ps 51:12: “Restore to me the joy of your salvation and sustain me with a willing spirit.”

Ps 51:17: “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; A broken and a contrite heart, O God, You will not despise.”

The opposite of ‘Poor in Spirit’ is ‘Proud in spirit’. The Pride of life is one of the three roots of sin and independence from God. (Also check, How to Overcome Temptation)

1 John 2:16 -For everything in the world, the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—comes not from the Father but from the world.

Poverty of spirit is the root of all virtues. It is the state of the heart; it is how you view yourself in the sight of God’s law. In this regard, this first beatitude is the root from which all other beatitudes evolve.

The Promise: The Kingdom of Heaven

  • The ‘Kingdom of Heaven’ is a unique title only found in the gospel of Matthew. This term is used interchangeably with ‘Kingdom of God’ in the other gospels. The Kingdom of Heaven is the Messianic kingdom promised in the Old Testament, to be established by the Messiah. (Daniel 2:44) Matthew presents Jesus as the Savior and King prophesied in the Old Testament.
  • The Kingdom of God (Heaven) is twofold:
    • It is Already Here: Luke 17:20-21: “Once, having been asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, Jesus replied, “The kingdom of God does not come with your careful observation, nor will people say, ‘Here it is,’ or ‘There it is,’ because the kingdom of God is within you.”
    • It is Yet to Come: The Kingdom of Heaven will be fully realized and established when Christ comes back as the King and Ruler overall the earth. (Daniel 7: 13,14,27)
  • What a blessed hope and promise, Jesus offers to those who are poor in spirit! “The Kingdom of Heaven is theirs.”

Reflections:

  • How do you view yourself in the light of this beatitude?
  • Do your attitudes and behavior reflect your beliefs?

Next Part of the Series – Part 2: Blessed are those Who Mourn: Beatitudes Bible Study Series

Other Resources on Amazon: The Beatitudes: Developing Spiritual Character (John Stott Bible Studies)

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Comments

  1. says

    I was moved with what you said that truly the Bible is a great paradox. One great reason why we can’t expect for the unbelievers to believe and agree with us easily when we speak about our faith because it may seem foolish to them but it’s treasure before us for the Lord’s glory!

  2. J says

    This is truly inspirational and knowledgeable for those who seek to know the truth. Thanks for the eye opening.

  3. Megan says

    I just want to mention… I just noticed a difference as to WHO Jesus was speaking to and wanted to know if this was legit. In Matt. 5 Jesus is speaking to a crowd, while in Luke 6 Jesus in speaking to his disciples. Is that correct?

  4. says

    I definitely think that you have done a good job with this wordpress site it looks really good and you have a ton of great information as well, I know I found what I was searching for anyway. Just thought I would take the time to comment, again keep up the good work

  5. Dan Schneider says

    Excuse me…. but Jesus did not speak Greek. He spoke Aramaic. Thus, everyone seems to miss the point of the sermon since we reflect the latin or greek philosophy which didn’t have a concept for blessedness. Bless-ed and Blessed are not the same thing. The beatitudes are not about being happy or blessed even though those may be a by-product. When Jesus referred to Bless-ed, he was not talking about an emotional state, but a spiritual state, e.g. “bless-ed is he who comes in the name of the Lord”. Bless-ed means “one set aside as a child of God”, or “those who will be called Saints”, or “holy and blameless in His sight”, or “a new creation in Christ” and other similar phrases that denote the spiritual heart condition that gives rise to the blessedness and the stated spiritual reward. It is NOT about blessings nor about poor people, or downtrodden people, or gentle apologetic people. The beatitudes are totally about the heart condition required to be saved and to grow in the Lord, and then to go out and join the Great Commission. They are a PhD course in discipleship!! We completely miss the point by thinking they are about blessings … a word which only means “showered with undeserved gifts.”

  6. Nelson Amoako says

    I thank our maker for what he is doing even in the life of the unbelievers. Our sermon is breaking hedges everywhere, this is the fervent wish God. Beloved let us use our beatitude to propagate the gospel for it is very effective. thank you.

  7. victor kalonga chimvumbi says

    You are a blessing to me continuie doing that may the Lord Bless you more.

  8. ogwang jimmy says

    I am blessed to find this programm, i was just googling to understand the beatitudes more, just after a dream on the beatitudes, Its a testimony to me because i did not go for ministry today because i am in need of seeing God do something new in the church ministry,And lucky enough in a drean i got mathew 5:3-ff the beatitudes.
    I want to have studies on the bible.
    Apostle Jimmy Ogwang
    Kampala Uganda

  9. says

    Excellent posts. It really helps me understand the meaning of being “poor in spirit.” I am bookmarking your website. I will definitely come back for more reading. Thanks!!

  10. VaeQring says

    Your writings bombarded satanic thoughts in my minds in Christian( Christ) life (likeness) journey!

  11. ISAAC WAIRANGU says

    This is the challenge that we need to take in order to take the cross and follow Jesus with a lot of determination that can allow us win the battle

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