Summary: To be poor in spirit means one is aware that he has less, not more, that he has to admit that he has less to have more and that he has to accept that he can only have more with God.
There was an old woman begging in a street corner. A passer-by took pity on her. He was about to give when he noticed that she’s holding two cans. When he asked why, she answered, “Well, business is so good that I opened a new branch.”
Seriously, I remember watching an episode of Imbestigador over GMA 7 where they exposed people posing as beggars. Some of them just pretend that they are blind or crippled. But the investigative team exposed them as frauds. I saw a video of a supposedly crippled beggar. Then, at the end of the day, he actually walks without the help of crutches. We can say that he is poor but he is not really a beggar.
Now, in His sermon on the mount, our Lord Jesus started with “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” Note the phrase “in spirit.” He is not referring to the financially poor but to the spiritually poor. In the New Testament, there are two Greek words for “poor.” It’s the difference between being poor and being a beggar. All beggars are poor people. But not all poor people are really beggars. What Jesus called “poor in spirit” is actually a “beggar in spirit.” Jesus is talking about “the most dire and destitute. Literally, the root means to crouch or cower. This man’s poverty has beaten him to his knees.” That’s why The Message translation goes 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.” Last week, I mentioned that the word “blessed” means “happy.” How can one be happy when he is at the end of his rope? How can one be happy when he or she is spiritually poor? This morning we will discover that “The Secret for More is Less.”
Let us look at a parable of the Lord in Luke 18:9-14 which I think illustrates for us what it means to be poor in spirit. “To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everybody else, Jesus told this parable: “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood up and prayed about himself: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’ 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.” The Lord gave a contrast between a Pharisee and a tax-collector. During those times, people look up to Pharisees for being so religious while they look down on tax collectors for being so corrupt.
Our Lord told this story because of “some who were confident of their own”. There are people who are “complacently pleased with themselves over their moral performance”. In short, the Lord attacked those who thought they have more but actually they have less.
A Pharisee strictly obeyed the law. When people see them, they say that the Pharisee was “lampas na sa langit.” That’s why this Pharisee could pray: “Oh, God, I thank you that I am not like other people—robbers, crooks, adulterers, or, heaven forbid, like this tax man. I fast twice a week and tithe on all my income.” God did not command that people should fast twice a week. Yet the Pharisee did. Supposedly, fasting was voluntary. But he made it mandatory. In his prayer, he bragged about “what he was not… and what he did”.
Note in verse 11 that he “prayed about himself.” In other words, he bragged about all his “pogi” points. His prayer was simply, “Lord, ang suwerte mo sa akin!” But it is clear in the story the Pharisee did not please God. God did not approve of him. Verse 14 says that “everyone who exalts himself will be humbled”. Even with his so-called accomplishments, God did not justify him or did not make him right before Him. Though verse 11 says that he “prayed about himself”, the word “about” can be translated “to.” It appears he did not really pray to God. He actually prayed to himself. Obviously, this Pharisee did not have the slightest idea about his real spiritual need. He thought he had more but actually he had less. Yes, all people are spiritually poor. But only those who are aware that they are poor in spirit are blessed. So, to be poor in spirit means you are AWARE that you have less, not more.