Summary: Being poor in spirit has absolutely nothing to do with depression or finances. This sermon gives a description of the poor in spirit that Jesus calls us to.
The teacher in a Bible class asked a woman to read from the Book of Numbers about the Israelites wandering in the desert. "The Lord heard you when you wailed, 'If only we had meat to eat!' " she began. "Now the Lord will give you meat. You will not eat it for just one day, or two days, or five, or ten or twenty days, but for a month—until you loathe it."
When the woman finished, she paused, looked up, and said, "Hey, isn't that the Atkins diet?"
It’s that time a year again where everybody decides it’s time to start a new diet. There will be some crazy diets out there. The only question is how long the diet will last. As we begin a new year today I decided that we would focus in on what is called the Beatitudes in Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount. There are seven attitudes that I would call kingdom attitudes. I call these the “Be-attitudes” because these are the things that we need to be. As the New Year begins we are always about making New Year’s resolutions. We often times focus on resolutions about our weight or about our life goals in certain areas, but one area that we probably do not focus on much is our attitudes. Are the attitudes that we live our life with the attitudes of the kingdom? Are the attitudes we live with the attitudes that please God? Some people live with attitudes that make other people want to keep their distance. Maybe today is a time to begin taking a fresh look at your attitudes and seeing how they measure up with what Jesus has to say here. If they do not then hopefully a resolution we might make is to “be” the attitudes that Jesus gives us in the scriptures here. Of course that can only happen through surrendering ourselves to God.
If you notice, each one of these beatitudes that Jesus gives has a “blessed are” before them. If you look at the Greek word that blessed is translated from it also means “happy” or “joy.” So what Jesus is saying here is this, “Happy are the poor in spirit.” Now that just doesn’t sound right does it! It sounds like Jesus is saying that those who are depressed are happy. But that isn’t what Jesus is saying at all. Being poor in spirit has nothing to do with being depressed. It has absolutely no financial implications at all! I think one of the best examples of a person being poor in spirit is illustrated by Jesus in a parable that He told. It is a parable about the Pharisee and tax collector. Each came to the temple to pray. The Pharisee prayed about himself and what a great guy he was. He thanked God that he wasn’t like other people, robbers, evil doers and this tax collector. But listen to what Jesus had to say about the tax collector in Luke 18:13,14. “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 everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.” You see this man knew that he was a sinner and that he had no right to come into the presence of God. He knew that He needed the mercy and grace of God. The people who are poor in spirit, they have a realization they are bankrupt without God. You see the Pharisee thought a lot of himself. He didn’t see himself as a sinner in the need of grace. He thought he was all of that and more. But this tax collector knew that that he was incapable of saving himself. Without God he had nothing. This tax collector is the perfect example of someone who was poor in spirit. Jesus had this beatitude first for a reason. First of all they all build on one another. But without being poor in spirit it is not even possible for you to be saved. You can never be saved if you think that you can save yourself. To be saved you have to know that you are a sinner who needs the grace of God. You have to know that it’s not possible to save yourself. Its only when you reach that point that you will say have mercy on me God I am a sinner and mean it! If you notice Jesus said that the tax collector and not the Pharisee was the one who went home justified before God. Other words it was not the religious leader who left being on good terms with God it was the tax collector, the sinner. If you look at the scene where Christ was on the cross between the two thieves, you might remember that one of the thieves was mocking Jesus. Then Luke 23:40-43 records it this way: “But the other criminal rebuked him. ‘Don’t you fear God,’ he said, ‘since you are under the same sentence? We are punished justly, for we are getting what we deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong. Then he said, ‘Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.’ Jesus answered him, ‘I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise.’ ” This was a man who realized he deserved death. He deserved punishment, but he knew that Jesus was innocent. In faith he said remember me when you come into your kingdom. He knew he needed the grace of Jesus. With both the tax collector and the thief it was the humility of both men and their contriteness that led to their salvation. Isaiah 66:2 starting in the middle of the verse says, “This is the one I esteem: he who is humble and contrite in spirit, and trembles at my word.” Blessed are those who are humble enough to realize they need God for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.