Summary: Sermon on the Mount #2
What we find recorded in verses 3-12 are commonly referred to as "The Beatitudes." Each of the nine "Beatitudes" begin with the word "blessed." The basic meaning of "blessed" is happy. However, happiness in a Biblical sense has a much deeper meaning than what we tend to give the word in our modern English language. "Happiness" comes from the Old English word "hap" which means "chance or luck." "Happiness happens when happen stances happen to be happy." In other words, happiness as we know it, only exists when the circumstances surrounding our life are in our favor. But when we use the word "happiness" as the Bible speaks of it, we are speaking of a spiritual joy and satisfaction that lasts regardless of conditions, which carries one through pain, sorrow, loss, and grief.
This "happiness" or sense of spiritual joy and satisfaction is pronounced first upon the "poor in spirit."
I. THE INTERPRETATION OF "POOR IN SPIRIT"
The thought that genuine joy and satisfaction comes from being poor in anything is diametrically opposed to the conventional wisdom of today’s culture. In the minds of those who have bought into the world’s way of thinking, verse 3 ought to read "Blessed are the rich, the famous, the powerful, the movers and shakers, the important, the aggressive, the self-reliant, the self-confident, the glamorous..." In today’s world, being "poor in spirit" is equated with being depressed, weak, timid, and passive. Everyone knows that this is not the way to get ahead. This is not the way to attain "happiness." Today’s conventional wisdom teaches us to assert ourselves, to care for nothing but ourselves. We are taught that the only vice is weakness and the only virtue is strength. We are encouraged to be strong and we’re told that "The world is our’s if we can get it."
Unfortunately, the conventional wisdom held by our society at large is often at odds with Biblical wisdom. God’s wisdom and ways are radically different from the current thinking of our secular society. As a matter of fact, Paul said that "the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God" (1 Corinthians 3:19). The question that we must ask ourselves is "Are we willing to accept the radical teachings of Jesus as truth?" And if so, "Are we willing to let them change our lives in the radical way they are intended to?"
A. Negatively, what "poor in spirit" IS NOT
1. "Poor in spirit" does not refer to financial destitution or material poverty.
2. "Poor in spirit" does not mean a lack of vitality or courage.
3. "Poor in spirit" does not mean a false humility which is designed to gain the sympathy of others.
4. "Poor in spirit" does not have anything to do with suppressing our personality.
B. Positively, what "poor in spirit" IS
1. In this verse, "poor" comes from a verb meaning "to shrink, cower, or cringe." It was used to describe people of complete poverty who were reduced to crouching in a corner begging for food.
2. Spiritually speaking, to be "poor in spirit" is to humbly bow our hearts to God, acknowledging our total spiritual poverty before Him and our utter dependence upon Him. It is to understand that apart from Christ we are spiritually destitute. It is the personal acknowledgment of spiritual bankruptcy. It is the conscious confession of our unworthiness before God.
3. To be "poor in spirit" is to say "I am nothing; I have nothing; I can do nothing; I stand in need of all things."
4. Being "poor in spirit" is the opposite of being haughty and self-sufficient. It is the very reverse of that independent and defiant attitude which refuses to bow to God.
5. Poorness of spirit is not something that we can produce, it not something that we can do for ourselves. It is a work of the Holy Spirit wrought in the hearts of true believers. By nature we are self-righteous and filled with pride. It takes a miracle of the grace of God to bring us to the point where we are genuinely "poor in spirit."
6. There are numerous Biblical examples of those who were "poor in spirit."
a. Gideon - When God came to Gideon and told him that he was going to be used to "save Israel from the hand of the Midianites", Gideon’s reply demonstrated the fact that he was "poor in spirit." Gideon said, "Oh my Lord, wherewith shall I save Israel? behold, my family is poor in Manasseh, and I am the least in my father’s house" (Judges 6:14-15).
b. Moses - The fact that Moses was truly "poor in spirit" is seen in his feelings of unworthiness to perform the task that was laid upon him and his consciousness of his own insufficiency and inadequacy (Exodus 4:1-12).