Living in the Father’s Favor: The Happiness of Humility
Matthew 5:3 3 "Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Intro: After the church service a little boy told the pastor, "When I grow up, I’m going to give you some money. "Well, thank you," the pastor replied. "But why?" "Because my daddy says you’re one of the poorest preachers we’ve ever had."
-Today we’re are going to talk about what God thinks about those who are poor – poor in spirit that is. In Matthew 5, Jesus begins what has been called the Sermon on the Mount with 8 descriptions of the kind of people who represent God’s family well. This is what God’s people are like. They closely resemble their father and understand who they are in light of Who He is. These descriptions are also called beatitudes. The Latin word for blessed is beatus, from which we get the word beatitude.
-Some scholars believe that this opening of the sermon was designed to shock the audience as Jesus deliberately turned what was commonly accepted upside down. Most of the shock value has been lost today because we are so familiar with the text. Perhaps the modern equivalent could be something like this: “Blessed are the losers who have nothing to say for themselves – God really favors them and rewards them with the best that He has.”
-The Message Bible puts it like this: “You’re blessed when you’re at the end of your rope. With less of you there is more of God and his rule.”
-As we examine this first beatitude, we will find that poor in spirit really has its own meaning. Those who are poor in spirit know how much they need God. It is not surprising that the kingdom is theirs because the King Himself has become their King and provider. With that in mind, here is the main idea of the message:
Proposition: God’s favor rests on those who recognize how much they need Him.
Interrogative: What can we learn about being poor in spirit?
TS: Let’s look at three dynamics of some of God’s favorite people.
I. The Character of the Poor in Spirit
(The Poor in Spirit Are Humble Minded)
-The story is told of a young American student who visited the Beethoven Museum in Bonn, Germany. The student became fascinated by Beethoven’s piano that was on display there. It was a thrill to think that Beethoven had composed some of his greatest works on that piano! The student asked the museum guard if she might play a few notes on it. To help persuade the guard, she also slipped him a lavish tip. The guard agreed and the girl went to the piano and played the opening of the Moonlight Sonata. As she was leaving she said to the guard, “I suppose all the great pianists who come here want to play on that piano.” 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.”
-Poor in spirit is used figuratively, of those in special need of God’s help. The Greek word ptokos means poor, lowly, one who crouches or cringes, a beggar.
-To be poor in spirit really means to realize that we are spiritually bankrupt, that we cannot save ourselves, that we really need help!
-Being poor in spirit speaks of a faithful dependence on the Lord that poverty often produces as opposed to militant anger and force of arms that the revolutionaries in Jesus’ time thought would bring about the kingdom of God (Keener).
-It means to be small in our own eyes, like Saul was before he became King. It means to be unselfish. “Get all you can and can all you get” is not poverty of spirit, but betrays a sense of entitlement and greed. Certainly there is a place for initiative and ambition, but only in the context of complete surrender to God. The way up is down in God’s kingdom. Lord, help us to be unassuming, knowing that we are all undeserving!
-Have you ever noticed how easy it is to offend someone who is not poor in spirit? They are pretty sure that the solar system revolves around them. Therefore, whenever something is said or done that conflicts with their agenda, everybody hears about it. However, the poor in spirit are described in 1 Corinthians 13:4-5 “4 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.”
-Here is a good test for each of us to take: Try and remember the last time you were wronged? The poor in spirit usually cannot, because they know they have a defender who takes care of injustices. Whenever we allow pride to creep into our lives, it often raises its ugly head by causing us to take offense at another person. Love is not easily offended and does not keep track of those offenses.
-The poor in spirit are those who are not self-assertive, self-reliant, self-confident, self-centered, or self-sufficient. The poor in spirit are not overly concerned with self-esteem. They do not boast in their God given characteristics such as their birth, their family, their nationality, their education, their physical looks, their race, their wealth, or their culture. None of that matters. The poor in spirit are those who are conscious of their sins and know in their hearts that they are completely unworthy of God’s free grace.
-Jesus is saying, “Blessed are those who know that there’s nothing they can do to help themselves. Blessed are those who humbly realize that they are spiritually bankrupt without Christ. Blessed are those who understand that without God, they can do nothing.
-Someone said pride is so subtle that we can even become proud of our humility. We might even become like the Sunday School teacher who, after telling the story of the Pharisee and the publican, said, ”Children, let’s bow our heads and thank God we are not like the Pharisee!”
-There is such a thing as false humility, but I think we all know the difference. That doesn’t make us immune to it, however. Genuine humility is seeing ourselves the way we really are. We have worth because God created us in His image and wants to have a relationship with us. God wants to help us. But just like the baby bird who can do nothing more than chirp and swallow the food its mother brings, we are totally dependent on God for our life and breath and future.
-Humility only comes when we receive God’s revelation of Himself in Jesus and begin to see ourselves the way He sees us- totally helpless without Him, but totally blessed with Him. God smiles on those who are poor in spirit.
-TS: That leads us to the 2nd point.
II. The Affirmation of the Poor in Spirit
(The Poor in Spirit Are Highly Regarded)
-Blessed- Approved by God, Applauded by Heaven
-Blessed - being esp. favored, blessed, fortunate, happy, privileged, from God’s perspective. The general Greco-Roman perspective of someone who was blessed was one on whom fortune smiles. A blessed person is a privileged recipient of divine favor.
-In today’s language, being blessed might mean "to possess an inward contentedness and joy that is not affected by physical circumstances". The poor in spirit are not normally considered blessed on this earth, but are in fact blessed by God.
-I see Mary the mother of Jesus as fitting this description. We also read about God’s favor or approval being expressed to her by the angel. Luke 1:28-30 “28 The angel went to her and said, "Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you." 29 Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. 30 But the angel said to her, "Do not be afraid, Mary, you have found favor with God.”
-God has a way of affirming the poor in spirit and using them to accomplish incredible things in His kingdom. God is not impressed by our accomplishments or abilities. He uses the foolish things of this world to confound the wise. 1 Peter 5:5-6 “All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because, "God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble." 6 Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time.”
-This is God’s favor, God’s affirmation of a person, when He gives His grace to those who are humble. We are less than deserving when it comes to God’s grace and favor. Yet, He has set His love on us and has chosen us to associate with Him. He sees us in our weaknesses and gives us the grace to trust in Him for strength.
-Have you been blessed by God? If so, then I hope you recognize His favor for what it is. The Bible says that God gives rain to good people and bad people. However, His favor is reserved for those who are poor in spirit and recognize that they need Him more than anything else in this world.
-My prayer for you today is that God would look down on you and see someone who is poor in spirit and has a heart that is filled with repentance and humility. Because when God sees a heart like that, His favor and His blessing will soon follow.
-TS: Well, our final point may sound redundant, because it sounds a lot like God’s favor, but let’s look at what really indicates that God’s favor rests on a person.
III. The Reward of the Poor in Spirit
(The Poor in Spirit Are Heavily Rewarded)
-The Kingdom of Heaven belongs to those who are poor in spirit. This speaks of identity - who you are because of whose you are; identification with God’s kingdom; possessing the kingdom shows a close connection with the King.
-The kingdom of heaven doesn’t belong to the rich or the famous or the most capable. It belongs to those who are loyal to Jesus. It belongs to those who have begun realize that they cannot live without the Lord. It belongs to the humble. It belongs to the poor in spirit.
-Being poor in spirit keeps you from becoming proud in spirit. But the biggest benefit of being poor in spirit is that God’s home is your home. Jesus says “Blessed are those who are poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven!” The kingdom of heaven is not only the residence of the King, it is the residence of those who humble themselves before the King!
-The phrase “kingdom of heaven” in this context is not simply referring to the place where those who believe will live forever but rather the environment that Christ rules over. It’s like the trusting child who benefits from his parent’s provision. And what kind of life will the poor in spirit have if Jesus rules over them rather than trying to be the ruler themselves? Among other things they will receive these four blessings.
(1) God’s grace. (James 4:6) There is an acrostic for Grace which describes what God has done: God’s Riches At Christ’s Expense. If you are poor in spirit, that’s when you admit your need for Him, and that’s when He gives mercy, forgiveness and His grace, His favor when we deserve punishment.
(2) Less stress. Humility means I don’t have to have all the answers. When I’m humble I realize that the world does not depend on me. I am not the general manager of the universe. When I’m humble I can admit I don’t have it all together. When I’m humble.... I don’t have to fake it anymore. I can relax in the Lord. I don’t have to pretend I’m perfect because God doesn’t demand that I be perfect in order for me to be happy. And things don’t have to be perfect for me to be joyful. Humility accepts the fact that you can be happy because you are depending on God, not depending on everything to be ideal. When I depend on my job or my mate or my friends to make me happy they invariably fail... because they are not perfect. But God never fails. I’m not depending on things or others for my approval but on Jesus alone. So when I become poor in spirit and walk in dependence on the Lord, it reduces the stress in my life. And when the stress goes down, happiness goes up.
(3) Better relationships. Who enjoys being around arrogant, boastful, prideful people? No one likes a selfish person. When you are poor in spirit you take an interest in others. When you take an interest in others, you become interesting to others. Being poor in spirit means you ask forgiveness of others, and you in turn are forgiving. It improves relationships.
(4) Results. Being poor in spirit releases God’s power in my life. God works powerfully through those who are poor in spirit. I can simply be faithful and diligent and trust Him for the results. [Several thoughts borrowed from Timothy Smith, SC]
Conclusion: As we close, what does it mean to be "poor in spirit?" It simply means to be totally dependent on God. It means realizing our spiritual deficiencies. It means admitting I am a sinner; it means more than using the saying, "Nobody’s perfect," as a cliché, but realizing it was my sin that caused Jesus to go to the cross. To be poor in spirit means to empty ourselves of selfishness. In a word it is humility.
-This is the first quality we need in order to find God’s favor. We must understand that we are not good! We must recognize that we are destitute spiritually, that we are poor in spirit. That sounds crazy doesn’t it? We’ve been taught to hide behind our masks, to put on a front. But Jesus says, “No! You must first understand you are not good, because if you don’t you will never recognize your need!” We can’t impress the officials at NASA with a paper airplane. We couldn’t boast about our crayon sketches in the presence of Picasso. Beethoven would not be impressed by our best rendition of Chopsticks. We can’t impress God by our successes either. Maybe you’ve done well for yourself and are living pretty well. Psalm 24:1 says "The earth’s is the Lord’s and everything it!" Compared to God we are not great. We are nothing without God, and we will never be content until we understand that principle. We need God.
-Do you want to know God’s favor and blessing? Do you want a share in the kingdom of heaven? The way up is down. 1 Peter 5:6 “Humble yourselves … under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time.” [Pray]