By: Scott Adkins, Sling ‘n Stone Ministry
Carter County Times
We’ve all heard countless sermons about a true Christian’s essential character traits and behaviors: loving your enemies; holy living; pitying the poor; loving God with all your heart, mind, soul, and strength. All these character traits and behaviors indeed stand essential to the true Christian, as opposed to the hypocrite, who merely pretends. But what character trait, if any, serves as the foundation for all others? That is, where do we start? Perhaps the answer lies in where Jesus Himself started. Perhaps the answer lies within the first sermon Jesus preached – the Sermon on the Mount. Matthew 5:3-11 presents Jesus’s first teachings to His disciples and is often referred to as the beatitudes. This is where Jesus identified the essential character traits and behaviors that separate true believers from hypocrites, and to that end, Jesus began with:
The Poor In Spirit
We’re probably all familiar with the first beatitude in Matthew 5:3: “Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” But what, exactly, does this mean? One well-known bible scholar from yesteryear, Arthur W. Pink, explained that poverty in spirit presents “the opposite of that haughty, self-assertive, and self-sufficient disposition that the world so much admires and praises… the very reverse of that independent and defiant attitude that refuses to bow to God.” Differently put, to be “poor in spirit” means the exact opposite of the rich fool in Luke chapter 12, who “thought within himself” that his own efforts, success, and accumulated riches gave him all the security his soul needed. He gave no thought to, and put no reliance on, God. God called this man a “fool.” (Luke 12:20).
Let’s not be fools before God. Let’s see what it means to be “poor in spirit.”
To answer that question, most go back to the original Greek – the language in which the New Testament was first written. Writing in Greek, Matthew used the word “ptōchoi” for “poor.” In English, ptōchoi means bankrupt; destitute; or one who is bent over in utter destitution and existing by others’ generosity. Yet this is not outward poverty; rather, this poverty lies within one’s “spirit.”
For “spirit,” Matthew used the Greek word “pneumati,” meaning one’s innermost self, or that part of us which is eternal and gives life. So, “poor in spirit” can be read to mean our heart-felt consciousness of complete bankruptcy before God; and that consciousness driving our actions.
Isaiah chapter 6 presents an oft-cited example for “poor in spirit.” There, Isaiah saw God and immediately realized and confessed his own dreadfully empty state before Him. Only then did God touch Isaiah and dispatch Isaiah to do God’s work.
What does this mean for us? Until we come to that same innermost realization and confession as did Isaiah, and until that transforms who we are and drives what we do, we’ve not really even gotten started with being Jesus’s disciples. Being “poor in spirit” is where it all begins.
/s/Sling ‘n Stone Ministry