In this passage Jesus is teaching his disciples on the mountainside. I read this passage over and over and I kept coming back to the beginning of The Beatitudes in Matthew 5:3 where Jesus says to his disciples, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”
What exactly is “poor in spirit?” I’ve heard many Christians explain it as meaning people who are physically poor, destitute, and poverty-stricken. Some people even misquote this verse as “Blessed are the poor……” But it clearly reads “poor in spirit.”
I believe that Jesus is saying that in order for us to enter the kingdom of heaven, we must humbly acknowledge that we are spiritually poor, destitute and in desperate need of a savior. We must come to the realization that we cannot make it into the kingdom of heaven on our own, by our own works (Ephesians 2:8-9). We must admit that we are a sinner and fall short of the glory of God. When we humble ourselves and become “poor in spirit,” it is then, and only then, that we can receive God’s gift of salvation because of the death and resurrection of His sinless Son Jesus Christ on the cross, in which he took our place and punishment for our sins in order for us to be reconciled with God. We receive God’s free gift of salvation through our faith in Him. When we believe in the name of Jesus Christ and receive God’s Holy Spirit to dwell in us, we are saved and will spend eternity with Him in the kingdom of heaven.
God through the prophet Isaiah explains “poor in spirit." In Isaiah 66:2 (NIV) the LORD God says, “These are the ones I look on with favor: those who are humble and contrite in spirit, and who tremble at my word.” The word ‘contrite’ means: feeling or showing regret for bad behavior and sorrow and remorse for a sin or shortcoming. In other words “poor in spirit” is acknowledging you're a sinner and having remorse for your sin, which is the beginning of repentance that leads to salvation and favor with God.
I have heard people tell me that when they have attended a 12-Step Program, such as AA, that the first step is acknowledging that you have a problem, which is necessary before you can be helped. It is the same with salvation in Christ. We must admit we have a problem and need help from our Savior Jesus Christ.
The best example in the Bible that I can think of to describe “poor in spirit” is when Jesus told the parable of the Pharisee and the tax collector praying in the temple in Luke 18:9-14. Jesus explains how the sinful tax collector was the one who went home justified, not the religious Pharisee who was a teacher of the Law. The tax collector (in vs. 13) would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, “God, have mercy on me, a sinner.” This is “poor in spirit.”
I want to daily become poor in spirit and humbly ask God for forgiveness and repent from my sins. In turn I want to forgive others as God has so graciously forgiven me.