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

If you are reading this, you are blessed. Not because there is anything special about the devotional you are about to read, but because if you are reading this, it can be assumed that you are a Christian. And if you are Christian, you have characteristics that Jesus describes as blessed.

You are blessed because you have an ever-present sense of inadequacy. You know that you would be helpless if you tried to do life on your own. You are blessed because sorrow follows you like your shadow. You mourn over the brokenness and sin you see in the world and in your own heart. You are blessed because you possess a type of humility that only comes from being humiliated. And you are blessed with a gnawing hunger for things to be made right. You know that this world is broken, that you are broken, and you long for the day when everything will be fixed.

God Cares for the Needy

While the blessings listed above may resonate with you, it’s probably not what you think of when you hear the word blessed. We normally call someone blessed when they receive divine favor that results in some type of fortunate condition. For example, you probably think of financial stability as a blessing because it is seen as a gift from God.

However, in Matthew 5:3, Jesus calls people blessed when they are in a condition that results in divine favor.[1] According to Jesus, God is tangibly compassionate toward those who lack any sense of self-sufficiency, and instead carry with them sorrow, humility, and a longing for righteousness.[2]

In the first half of the beatitudes (verses 3-6), Jesus speaks words of comfort, not condemnation. He lets his audience know that they are blessed to have broken hearts because only broken hearts will be healed in the coming kingdom. The traits in Matthew 5:3-6 describe the heart that has heeded the call for repentance and waits in eager anticipation for the kingdom of God.[3] As byproducts of repentance and anticipation, these attributes are present at the beginning of the Christian life and deepen as the Christian matures. To the extent that one appreciates the brokenness of the world, the depth of their sinful nature, and the need for God to intervene and establish His rule, they will exhibit the qualities described in verses 3-6.

Blessed Are Those Who Need God

The first trait that Jesus describes as blessed is being poor in spirit. The Bible frequently connects poverty with a heightened sense of trust in God. The poor must cry out to God, asking him to meet their needs. However, the poverty which Jesus has in mind goes beyond socioeconomics.[4]

This is the mindset of one who recognizes that they are destitute before God and dependent upon him. This mindset is present, to at least some extent, in every Christian. As you develop this sense of spiritual neediness, you begin to be truly grateful for the ways God meets your needs. As you begin to appreciate the depth of sin within your heart, you start to grasp the height of God’s mercy. When you cringe at all the ways you harm your relationship with God, you can rejoice that he reconciles you to himself. As you realize that your attempts at self-righteousness are powerless, you begin to rely upon the power of the Spirit working through you. As your sense of spiritual poverty grows, you recognize the value of the spiritual riches which God lavishes upon you.

Only those who see the value of what God offers will receive it. God offers a place in his kingdom to those who will accept it. This kingdom consists of God’s reign upon the earth mediated through Jesus the Messiah. While the kingdom has yet to be fully realized, its partial presence is seen in Christ’s current rule over the lives of his followers.[5] Only the poor spirit will seek entrance into this kingdom. You who are poor in spirit acknowledge your inability to rule over your own life. You come to the king of kings, desperately asking him to welcome you into his kingdom and rule over you with generosity, kindness, and mercy. And he is happy to do so. Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Come Ye Sinners

This good news should be responded to with worship and prayer. Listening to “Come Ye Sinners” by The Worship Initiative would be a good place to start.

Come, ye sinners, poor and needy
Weak and wounded, sick and sore
Jesus ready stands to save you
Full of pity, love, and power

I will arise and go to Jesus
He will embrace me in His arms
In the arms of my dear Savior
Oh, there are ten thousand charms

Come, ye thirsty; come and welcome
God’s free bounty glorify
True belief and true repentance
Every grace that brings you nigh

Come, ye weary, heavy laden
Lost and ruined by the fall
If you tarry ’til you’re better
You will never come at all

I will arise and go to Jesus
He will embrace me in His arms
In the arms of my dear Savior
Oh, there are ten thousand charms

Feel Him prostrate in the garden
On the ground your Maker lies
On the bloody tree behold Him
Sinner, will this not suffice?

Lo! Incarnate God ascended
Pleads the merit of His blood
Venture on Him, venture wholly
Let no other trust intrude

I will arise and go to Jesus
He will embrace me in His arms
In the arms of my dear Savior
Oh, there are ten thousand charms, oh

I will arise and go to Jesus
He will embrace me in His arms
In the arms of my dear Savior
Oh, there are ten thousand charms

Oh, there are ten thousand charms

This is th


Footnotes

[1] I interpret the use of the word “blessed” in a similar fashion as seen in Scot McKnight, Sermon on the Mount.

[2] For an excellent treatment of the theme of God’s heart toward sinners, see Dane Ortlund, Gentle and Lowly: The Heart of Christ for Sinners and Sufferers.

[3] The Bible teaches us to mourn over our sin in passages such as Joel 2:12-13 and Psalm 51:17. Evoking this response is not the intent of Matthew 5:3-6. Instead, the intent is to the good news of the coming kingdom to comfort those who have responded.

[4] Jesus refers to Isaiah 61:1-2 in Matthew 5:3-4. This reference to Isaiah 61 shows that Jesus’ words would not exclude material poverty. However, the preceding context of Isaiah 61, especially 57:15, shows that the brokenhearted poor of 61:1 were mourning over sin and its consequences. Matthew’s inclusion of the phrase “in spirit” clarifies this. See Craig Blomberg, “Matthew,” in Commentary on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament and G.W. Grogan, “Isaiah,” in The Expositor’s Bible Commentary.

[5] Theologians debate the presence and extent of the kingdom of God. I take an “inaugurated eschatology” or “already, not yet” approach. According to this view, the promises of the kingdom are mostly future, but it is present in some respects. For more on how this concept relates to the Sermon on the Mount, see Charles Quarles, Sermon on the Mount: Restoring Christ’s Message to the Modern Church.

Ron Allen grew up in Southwest Wisconsin and graduated from Emmaus Bible College in 2021. He is currently pursuing a ThM at Dallas Theological Seminary.

Posted by Ron Allen

Ron Allen grew up in Southwest Wisconsin and graduated from Emmaus Bible College in 2021. He is currently pursuing a ThM at Dallas Theological Seminary.

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