Summary: The poor in spirit are those who REALIZE that they are spiritually BANKRUPT before a Holy God and are in NEED of his Grace.
“The Poor in Spirit”
As we continue our study of the Sermon on the Mount, we are reminded that this sermon is a Constitution for those who enter Christ’s new Kingdom. It is filled with guidelines for how to live as God’s chosen people.
These guidelines begin with what are commonly called the Beatitudes. They are called beatitudes from the Latin word beatus, which is the word for blessed.
B. Some translations prefer to use the word “happy.” It is true that a person who is “blessed” will be profoundly happy. However, we must be careful not to reduce blessedness to merely being happy (Carson, 16).
II. Defining “Blessed”
A. To be “blessed” means to be approved or to find approval. In this case, approved of God. And there can be no higher “blessing” than to have God’s approval.
B. The fundamental question that everyone who reads the Sermon on the Mount is faced with is, who’s approval will you seek? Will you seek man’s approval, or God’s approval?
The Sermon on the Mount is Jesus teaching us how to receive God’s approval.
[Something else to keep in mind is that the beatitudes are not eight separate and distinct classifications of Christians. They are eight qualities that every Christian should display. (Stott, 13)]
III. Poor in Spirit
A. “Poor” — “extreme poverty.” — Blessed are the poverty of spirit.
B. Sometimes, a good way to determine what a concept means is to determine what it is not.
1. NOT being shy.
2. NOT financial destitution or material poverty.
3. NOT a lack of the presence of the Holy Spirit.
4. NOT a lack of spiritual awareness.
There is something COMMENDABLE about being poor in spirit.
C. Old Testament, or Hebrew expressions, can help us determine what this concept means.
1. “poor” included being “lowly” or “humble.”
2. Proverbs 16:19 — “Better to be of a humble spirit with the lowly, than to divide the spoil with the proud.”
a. It is the opposite of pride.
b. Pride says, “I don’t need God.”
c. It was the essence of man’s fall in the Garden. The temptation was “you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” There was something appealing about that temptation and it was that they would no longer be dependent upon God. Everyday of their lives, up to that point, were examples of being totally dependent upon God. The reason for the fall is that they no longer wanted to be dependent upon anyone but themselves. And we’ve been living that way ever since.
d. “Poor in spirit” = being totally dependent upon God.
3. Psalm 51:16-17 — “ You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it; you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings.  The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.”
D. “Poverty of spirit is the personal acknowledgment of spiritual bankruptcy. As such it is the deepest form of repentance.” (Carson, 17)
Example: The Publican in the Temple, “God, be merciful to me, a sinner.” (Contrast the Pharisee’s prayer)
E. It is not a man’s confession that he is insignificant, or personally without value, because that would simply not be true.