Daily Word

Be-attitudes: Poor in spirit | Matthew 5:3

3 “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”

Matthew 5:3 (NASB)


Now we get into the heart of the teaching. As we noted yesterday in the outline, the first part of the Sermon for Christian living is the be-attitudes. These focus on who we are as disciples of Christ rather than what we do. They set the foundation for the rest of the sermon. Teaching about what we do will come later.

It’s similar to faith and deeds. We have faith in Christ. Because of the faith and understanding of what He’s done for us, we do the good deeds. (Eph 2:10, Matt 5:17). Jesus here starts with who we are (or can strive to be) then teaches about what a disciple of His does, how they act.

All the be-attitudes start with “blessed” which simply means happy or content. 

Poor in spirit

So what does it mean to be poor in spirit? Poor means to lack something. We usually think of money. Poor can also refer to the quality of something. When speaking of a person, it means someone who deserves pity due to their condition. Which applies here?

“To be poor in spirit is to have a humble opinion of ourselves; to be sensible that we are sinners, and have no righteousness of our own; to be willing to be saved only by the rich grace and mercy of God; to be willing to be where God places us, to bear what he lays on us, to go where he bids us, and to die when he commands; to be willing to be in his hands, and to feel that we deserve no favour from him. It is opposed to pride, and vanity, and ambition.” (Barnes’ commentary)

Kingdom of heaven

Jesus talks much about the Kingdom of heaven (kingdom of God). It serves as a  contrast to the present world and its ways. It also helps His disciples improve their understanding of the future life to instill hope when people are experiencing the hopelessness of this present life.

“Broadly speaking, the kingdom of God is the rule of an eternal, sovereign God over all the universe. Several passages of Scripture show that God is the undeniable Monarch of all creation: ‘The LORD has established his throne in heaven, and his kingdom rules over all’ (Psalm 103:19)…More narrowly, the kingdom of God is a spiritual rule over the hearts and lives of those who willingly submit to God’s authority.” (gotquestions.org)


  • “The state of [someone who is poor in spirit] is therefore comparatively blessed, or happy. Riches produce care, anxiety, and dangers, and not the least is the danger of losing heaven by them.” (Barnes’ commentary) Take a moment to assess your condition. Are you poor in spirit as Barnes describes above – humble, submissive to God’s will, dependent on His grace? Or are your riches and comforts putting you in jeopardy of losing heaven?
  • Are your thoughts and desires focused on the Kingdom of heaven? Is Jesus Lord of your life, all aspects of your life – physical, mental, emotional, spiritual?
Poor boy. Image from Pxfuel.com *

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