In a recent worship service the pastor talked about our need to be totally reliant on God.
Needless to say I have not always done a great job of that in my own walk. But nevertheless, I find that the lesson is still refreshing to hear. Recently I received an understanding of a scripture that for many years has eluded. Perhaps I never studied it as fully as I should. Maybe I simply was blind to its truth before now I don’t know. All I know is that I get it now. And it’s a doozy…at least to me.
Matthew 5:3 says, “Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”
I’ve often wondered what that means. I’m living in the 21st century and in the day when I hear terms like “Google it”, “Twerking” and “hashtag” the phrase “poor in spirit”, just doesn’t come up in my everyday experience.
The word poor here comes from a Greek word ‘ptochos’ which comes from the derivative ptosso. It means…
“(to crouch); akin to 4422 and the alternate of 4098); a beggar (as cringing), i.e. pauper (strictly denoting absolute or public mendicancy, although also used in a qualified or relative sense; whereas 3993 properly means only straitened circumstances in private), literally (often as noun) or figuratively (distressed):–beggar(-ly), poor”
Now I’ve seen beggars. Most of what I’ve seen has been homeless individuals as I speed near exit ramps holding signs that state “Hungry, will work for food.” I’ve had beggars come and ask for a dollar. I’ve seen them huddled in blankets cold with a tin cup, pressed against the back of buildings to keep warm. It’s not exactly the most pleasant image that comes to mind. Perhaps that’s why I have found myself running from such a condition. I mean who wants to beg? It’s probably one of the most adverse circumstances any of us would want to find ourselves in. To be in such abject poverty, and a state of insufficiency that we must plead for the help of someone else. But this Jesus person comes along and says yep. Your blessed if that’s the state you are in, ‘in spirit.’
So naturally my logical thinking mind is “what’s this ‘in spirit’ thing?
After studying out that the word; ‘spirit’ comes from the Greek work pneuma, which roughly means breath. I must admit that my understanding simply didn’t get any help there. It wasn’t until later that it clicked for me that Jesus used what had to be an idiom. An expression that could not be understood from the meanings of its separate words but that had a separate meaning of its own. Similar to such phrases like, “A Dime A Dozen”, or “A Piece of Cake”.
So what does “poor in spirit” mean. It means to be totally dependent on the sufficiency of God. To look to him for sustenance, fulfillment, sufficiency, and resources.
There are numerous scriptures that communicate this truth of the believers need to look to and rely on God. Everything from Matt 4:4 “man shall no live by bread alone”, to when Paul communicates in 2 Cor 12:9. “my grace is sufficient for you.”
Oh and these are just a few new testament scriptures.
This theme of dependence on God is one of the central messages of Jesus: that we are in need of God, a savior and that we are powerless (i.e. in abject poverty) without him. What’s interesting is the contrast to the person who is “poor in spirit”. I happened to find it, and the person, nay a whole group of persons are described by Jesus very clearly in Revelations 3:17
“Because thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked”
This was the comment to the Laodician church. Interesting huh? Those that know this text know Jesus’s feelings about them. Words like regurgitation come to mind just to jar your memory.
No wonder I have had a hard time finding the meaning of this phrase. Between my own life and society around me. I’m stuck in a morass of people who are comfortable in their own self sufficiency and who don’t realize their true condition.
It’s amazing to me when I can look at my life and see how easily one can move to dependence on something other than God. Kind of just gets ya doesn’t it? Laodiceans…sigh.
Are you poor in spirit?