“Blessed [spiritually prosperous, happy, to be admired] are the poor in spirit [those devoid of spiritual arrogance, those who regard themselves as insignificant], for theirs is the kingdom of heaven [both now and forever].”
In His most famous message, Jesus addressed a large crowd of people who had come to a hillside to hear Him. As He began to speak, the things He said were so different from anything the people had ever heard that He must have sounded as if He were from another planet! We call this list of statements “ the Beatitudes.” Each one begins with the description of people being “blessed,” a word that means to be happy-really happy. People had never been taught that they could experience joy like this, so Jesus’ words almost certainly startled them. Happiness, Jesus explained, in each one comes from the most unlikely sources.
First, Jesus told the crowd that those who are “poor in spirit” can really be happy. Ironically, genuine joy comes from the soul-jarring insight that we are spiritually bankrupt, with nothing to offer. This isn’t false modesty. It’s the real thing! Pride ruins relationships- with God and with everyone else. When we measure ourselves by other people, we might look pretty good, but when we compare our motives and our behavior to the fierce purity, perfection, and majesty of Almighty God, we quickly become aware that we fall short-way short.
This painful realization, though, opens the door to God’s forgiveness, His purpose, and His presence. That’s what the Kingdom of Heaven is all about- the experience of God in our lives on earth and in heaven.
Few of us long to be spiritually bankrupt, but a gripping sense of need as we stand before God is the first and most important step for us to gain insight about what really matters. Then we can experience the wonder of knowing God.
Jesus clothed the Beatitudes with His own life.
I must recognize that the enemy within the camp- the flesh, the old nature, self, I, the old Adam- is a upsurper. By faith I must reckon him to be in the place that God put him- crucified with Christ. I must realize that now my life is hid with Christ in God; that He is my life.
Major Ian Thomas
The Declaration of Independence opens with the words that among our rights are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. I don’t think I know anyone who is not in some way pursuing happiness. On the other hand I know those who seem to pursue happiness in vain for often life brings its atroubles and sorrows.
The idea that we can live in happiness is the theme to every fairy tale that ends with “and they lived happily ever after.” In spite of this, most people would say that happiness is a fleeting thing.
Jesus, in the Beatitudes connected happiness with the blessings of God. The word He used can be translated to both blessing and happiness. When you read the Beatitudes you immediately notice the contrast to the worldly view of how to be happy. In this first Beatitude, Jesus says that the beginning of happiness is coming to a place of dependency upon God. In order to come to this place, we must discover our limitations. In the view of the world, those who are powerful, influential and wealthy are those who are happy or at least give the appearance of being so. Jesus cuts to the core of life by telling us that true happiness can only come from a right relationship with God.
The Amplified Bible says that those who find true happiness are “devoid of spiritual arrogance.” It is easy to trust in religion or ritual, but as the Jews of Jesus’ day discovered, they often leave you empty and dissatisfied. Much of the religious thought of Jesus’ day was a somber approach to God, hoping to avoid incurring His displeasure. To be sure it was reactive due to the Dispersion that their forefathers had suffered due to their idolatry. The Pharisees had developed elaborate laws and rituals in an attempt to appease God but most of the time none of them brought joy. Their focus was to avoid punishment and to somehow earn any blessing that God would bestow on them. As a result, those who seemed to have the blessings of life developed a spiritual arrogance, thinking that blessing indicated favor and struggles indicated punishment. Even in Christianity today, this thought often prevails.
What Jesus and the Bible teaches is a paradox. Those who are weak become strong in God. Those who make themselves servants of God become really free. Those who acknowledge their sins are forgiven and cleansed.
Jesus begins His teaching about being happy by saying that in order to be happy, we have to discard our independence and recognize that we are not capable to live with our own wisdom or strength. We place our whole lives, dreams, hopes, and plans before God and we trust in Him for their outcome.
From the beginning since sin entered the world, there has been this pressure to be independent, to stand in our own strength, and to live our own lives. We hear that said and taught today. The deceit of Satan is that he knows it is impossible to do this for no one is truly their own and each of us are easily influenced by those around us. Satan knows that if we do not give way to the influence of God then we will by default give way to him. He also knows that we wouldn’t give way to him knowingly so he plants this middle man idea-self and flesh-in between so that we aren’t totally aware of his influence. The only way to manage life is to fully surrender it to God for only God can be trusted to choose wisely and best for us. I think most of us would have to confess that there have been times when we have let ourselves down by making poor choices. Even with the best of intentions we often fail. But those who put their trust in God are assured that even in the loss of a battle, they will win the war and that assurance gives such hope and peace. Because of this assurance, we can find true joy and happiness.
Blessed are the poor in spirit (those who recognize their need for God) for theirs will be the kingdom of God, now and forever!
Dr. John Thompson