Summary: First sermon in a series on the Beatitudes.
A. The story is told of a young American student who visited the Beethoven Museum in Bonn, Germany.
1. The student became fascinated by Beethoven’s piano that was on display there.
2. It was a thrill to think that Beethoven had composed some of his greatest works on that piano!
3. The student asked the museum guard if she might play a few notes on it.
4. To help persuade the guard, she also slipped him a lavish tip.
5. The guard agreed and the girl went to the piano and played the opening of the Moonlight Sonata.
6. As she was leaving she said to the guard, “I suppose all the great pianists who come here want to play on that piano.”
7. The guard shook his head and said, “Paderewski, the famous Polish pianist was here a few years ago, and he said he wasn’t worthy to touch it.”
B. Poverty of spirit is certainly not something that comes naturally to us, and it is not a quality that is celebrated in our time and culture.
1. Our culture and world emphasize and appreciate things like self-reliance, and self-confidence.
2. But poverty of spirit is absolutely essential for us to be right with God and for us to be righteous in His eyes.
C. Jesus began the SOTM and the Beatitudes saying, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” (Mt. 5:3)
1. J.B. Philips’ translation renders it, “How happy are the humble-minded, for the kingdom of heaven is theirs!”
2. It should not surprise us that this is the first of the Beatitudes, because it is definitely a key to all the ones that follow and a key to embracing the entire SOTM.
3. Certainly Jesus put the Beatitudes in a logical and definite sequence.
4. By necessity this one must come first. No one can enter the kingdom of heaven without being poor in spirit.
5. Poverty of spirit is the fundamental characteristic of the Christian, and all the other characteristics proceed from this one.
D. But what does it really mean to be poor in spirit? Let’s begin by trying to describe what it doesn’t mean.
I. What Poverty of Spirit is NOT
A. First of all, being poor in spirit does not mean financial poverty.
1. Spiritual poverty is not a matter of money.
2. Certainly money can be a problem for us spiritually. Jesus had a lot to say about that during his ministry.
3. But how much money we have or don’t have is not the question here.
4. You and I could be flat broke, and yet we may not be poor in spirit.
5. The real issue of being poor in spirit, as we will see, has to do with the heart.
B. Second, being poor in spirit does not mean being biblically illiterate.
1. Some might think that having biblical knowledge is the same thing as being spiritually mature, but that is not the case.
2. Having biblical knowledge is helpful in our growth as a Christian, but it does not guarantee it.
3. Spiritual maturity involves being and living according to God’s Word.
4. It’s not how much you know, but how much you obey and apply.
5. A simple basic that we need to work at getting right is this verse from God’s Word about poverty of spirit.
C. Third, being poor in spirit does not mean thinking poorly of yourself.
1. Some think that if they just put themselves down enough they will be poor in spirit.
2. God doesn’t want us to think poorly of ourselves, he wants us to think properly of ourselves.
3. The issue isn’t proper loathing of self, but proper leaning on God.
D. Okay, so if poverty of spirit isn’t being financially poor, biblically illiterate, or putting oneself down, then what is it?
II. What Poverty of Spirit IS
A. There are two words used in the NT for poverty.
1. The first is penes which speaks of the person for whom life is a struggle.
a. It is the reverse of affluence.
b. The person who is penes somehow manages to get by.
2. The second word is ptochos which speaks of absolute poverty, being destitute, bankrupt. This is the word used here in this first Beatitude.
B. To be poor in spirit really means to realize that we are spiritually bankrupt, that we cannot save ourselves.
1. In the Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Carson explains, “To be poor in Spirit is not to lack courage but to acknowledge spiritual bankruptcy. It confesses one’s unworthiness before God and utter dependence on Him.”
C. One of the best biblical illustrations of poverty of spirit is the story that Jesus told about the Pharisee and the Publican from Luke 18:9-14.