When you’re going to climb up a ladder, you can’t start at the top. You must start with the first rung and move up from there.
That’s why Jesus started teaching the Beatitudes by saying, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 5:3)
What exactly does it mean to be “poor in spirit?” Especially when our mind doesn’t consider being poor at anything a blessing.
To be “poor in spirit” means you understand and admit you are spiritually dead and bankrupt and in desperate need of the grace of God.
To best understand this, we should look at the story Jesus told to a group of people who were full of themselves.
“To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everyone else, Jesus told this parable: “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector.
The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’
“But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’
“I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.” (Luke 18:9-14)
It doesn’t take a genius to know which person in the story was poor in spirit and which wasn’t. The question is, which one are you?
The answer to this question is the first step in coming into a saving relationship with Jesus Christ.
The Pharisee in the story didn’t think he had anything to repent of. He thought he was more than enough because of his so-called “good behavior.” He even went so far as to compare himself to the guy standing at church next to him. No, there was nothing poor about his spirit or his prayer.
The tax collector was the complete antithesis of the Pharisee. He didn’t even feel like he could approach God or look up to him. He didn’t compare himself or tout his extraordinary achievements. He knew he was a sinner and needed the grace of God.
So he did the only thing he could do. Ask for mercy and grace from the God who gives it.
Here are four ways you know you are poor in spirit.
- You recognize that you have fallen short.
- You admit you’re a sinner.
- You call out for mercy and forgiveness.
- You trust in the grace of God through Jesus Christ.
If that’s you, Jesus says your reward is “the kingdom of heaven.” In other words, being poor in spirit is the only way to enter God’s heavenly kingdom.
The good news is everyone, if they are willing, can reach this first step on the ladder.
Questions to Consider:
- Are you more like the Pharisee or the tax collector?
- What steps can you take to stop comparing yourself to others?
- Have you prayed and asked God for mercy?