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Matthew 5:3 Blessed are the poor in spirit, For theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

“Poor in spirit” is humility; true humility that is produced from a correct understanding of our predicament and need; a person who rightly understands his dilemma and understands his need for help or rescuing

  • Greek: Ptochos (toh kaas) – poor and helpless
    • One who in his helplessness needs “lifting”
    • One who has fallen from a better estate
    • Differs from “penes” (pen eese) type of poor (lacking material things), who is poor but can earn things by labor
    • The “ptochos” is so poor he can only make it by begging; he is helpless, dependent on something outside of himself
    • The “penes” has nothing extra or superfluous; the “ptochos” has nothing period with no hope of getting it without outside intervention

This is much deeper than just a general sense of need, even need for a Saviour. We tend to add “salvation” to our list of achievements or “things to get done”.

“Let’s see…. time for a checkup of my life:


– High School Class President, check.

– College degree, check.

– All conference in football, check.

– Good job and close to a promotion, check.

– New house and cars, check.

– Married, 1.5 kids, check.

– Saved, check.

– Read Bible and pray when I can’t handle things myself, check.

– Say grace at meals, check.

– Give a little money at church, check.

– Not as bad as most people, check.

OK, right on track! God should really be happy I joined his team! I’ve really got it all together.”

“Poor in spirit” in this context means recognizing and understanding that you are completely and totally helpless and lost; looking to God, know that Jesus is your only hope. The person who truly understands this is “blessed”.

We’re not doing God a favor by deciding to help Him out. Any feeling that we somehow “add” to God’s success by our decision to follow Him stems from a shallow understanding of who God is, what God has done, and how lost we really are.

This is NOT a “poor me”, downtrodden, sad sack, sad faced, appearance of humility. That would still be an attempt to manufacturer humility apart from God. True humility leads us to God’s wondrous saving plan, which makes us the happiest of all people… Blessed Are! This “true humility” is inward and draws us close to God, which in turn leads us to shine with God’s peace and joy!

A Christian’s spiritual maturity is directly proportionate to two things:

  • Our understanding of God and our dependence on Him (poor in spirit)
  • Our understanding of personal sin and our potential to deceive ourselves about sin

The tax collector in Luke had truly reached the point of “poor in spirit”….

Luke 18:9-14 Also He spoke this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others: 10 “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11 The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, ‘God, I thank You that I am not like other men—extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I possess.’ 13 And the tax collector, standing afar off, would not so much as raise his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me a sinner!’ 14 I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”

He realized that nothing in him could help his condition, he was not even worthy of looking up to Jesus. He understood that no contribution on his part could help. He humbled himself and begged for mercy, which he no doubt received.

What effect does true humility have on us?

  • A right knowledge of ourselves
    • We are incapable of living up to God’s standard
      • Romans 8:7-8 Because the carnal mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, nor indeed can be. 8 So then, those who are in the flesh cannot please God.
      • Romans 3:23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God
    • We deceive ourselves into thinking we can please God and do right apart from Him
      • Psalm 58:3 The wicked are estranged from the womb; They go astray as soon as they are born, speaking lies.
      • Jeremiah 17:9 “The heart is deceitful above all things, And desperately wicked; Who can know it?
      • Ephesians 2:1-2 And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins, 2 in which you once walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience
    • We will have the fear of the Lord which produces righteousness
      • Psalm 111:10 The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom;
      • Job 28:28 And to man He said,‘Behold, the fear of the Lord, that is wisdom, And to depart from evil is understanding.’ ”
      • Isaiah 33:6 Wisdom and knowledge will be the stability of your times, And the strength of salvation; The fear of the Lord is His treasure.
      • What is the fear of the Lord?
        • Proverbs 8:13 The fear of the Lord is to hate evil; Pride and arrogance and the evil way; And the perverse mouth I hate.
        • 1 Peter 1:16 because it is written, “Be holy, for I am holy.”
        • Psalm 11:7 For the Lord is righteous, He loves righteousness; His countenance beholds the upright.

  • A right knowledge of Christ

When we see ourselves correctly, then we seek to see Jesus correctly because He is our only Hope. We will seek the true way of salvation knowing that it is impossible in our effort. Christ Alone! Our hope, our joy, our security, our eternity!

Correctly understanding to the best of our finite ability what Christ did, who Christ was, what Christ sacrificed, what He accomplished, will only cultivate our humility. Our futile efforts to please God in our own strength pale and diminish with our growing knowledge of Christ’s sufficiency.

A right knowledge of Christ leads to a right knowledge of attitude, a right knowledge of worship, and a right knowledge of our dependence on Him.

What does “poor in spirit” NOT mean?

  • An outward appearance of “sadness” or “humility” for all to see

Jesus was not speaking of a false face of humility. He had scalded the Pharisees [3] for this hypocrisy [4] . To the contrary, a proper humility that leads us Christ and thus His teachings on happiness will produce a countenance of joy [5] and peace in us.

While there is a proper time (Ecclesiastes 3) for all things including mourning and sadness, generally speaking the light and hope [6] of Christ [7] should shine in us for all to see.

1 Thessalonians 2:19: For what is our hope, or joy, or crown of rejoicing? Is it not even you in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ at His coming?

  • Necessarily physical poverty

    No where does Scripture teach that physical poverty [8] in and of itself produces Godliness. The Scripture does have many warnings of the dangers of pursuing wealth and of possessing wealth [9] .

    • The wealthy man should be certain that his riches are completely at God’s disposal and pray that God will allow him to hold very loosely to that which is perishable and be willing to give it up for that which is imperishable. Scripture also teaches that we should be dependent on God for our daily sustenance (Psa 23) and that He will no doubt care for our needs. [10] We should never trust in our wealth in any way. It can be gone in an instant, and pray God that it would be gone if it keeps us from Him.
    • Man, in his never ending ability to produce pride in any circumstance can be just as prideful about his poverty, as he can about his wealth. Jesus dealt with the attitude of the heart. He can use wealth or poverty to His glory. You need only to be available and content with either. The poor man should glory in His dependence on God and not covet wealth.

God does NOT promise us wealth, material abundance, and physical prosperity despite today’s popular, materialistic “faith” teaching. Nor does material poverty magically produce humility. We are taught to be content in whatever situation God has providentially arranged, and glorify Him with joy and thanksgiving [11] in all circumstances. God is above any amount of wealth [12] , or any depth of poverty.

Regardless of his bank account,
every man is unimaginably rich who has Christ,
and is wretchedly poor without him.

Our duty is to understand that God gives, God takes away, God uses… it’s all His. Can He trust us to manage (steward) His resources?

Philippians 4:11-13: Not that I speak in regard to need, for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content: I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound. Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.

What “poor in spirit” DOES mean

  • Spiritual poverty

The Greek: Ptochos (toh kaas) means “poor and helpless”, “cowering like a beggar”. While this initially assaults our American sense of self sufficiency, it is an accurate picture of our true need for Christ.

The person who truly understands their emptiness, helplessness and need for God, is ready to be used by God and to enjoy the happiness that only comes from a Saviour who chose us [13] , called us, died for us, saved us, sustains us, and grants us eternal glory with him.

Consider the following verses and God’s longing for us to know the happiness of being “poor in spirit” (remember, we are talking about Godly humility, not a sad “poor me” countenance):

  • Psalm 34:18 The Lord is near to those who have a broken heart, And saves such as have a contrite spirit.
  • Psalm 51:17 The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit, A broken and a contrite heart— These, O God, You will not despise.
  • Isaiah 57:15 For thus says the High and Lofty One; Who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy: “I dwell in the high and holy place, With him who has a contrite and humble spirit, To revive the spirit of the humble, And to revive the heart of the contrite ones.
  • Isaiah 66:2 For all those things My hand has made, And all those things exist,” Says the Lord. “But on this one will I look: On him who is poor and of a contrite spirit, And who trembles at My word.
  • James 4:7-10 Therefore submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. 8 Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded. 9 Lament and mourn and weep! Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom. 10 Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and He will lift you up.

The repeating theme is that God is pleased with and desires:

  • A broken heart – Godly humility produced from a realization of our predicament
  • A contrite spirit – a repentant attitude, not only understanding our need, but being truly sorry that our own sinfulness caused it
  • Mourning and lamenting – a true sadness and grief over the effects of sin and how it grieves God

The picture here is of something being totally crushed and destroyed with no power or resource left over.

(Again, remember this is NOT some outward show of false humility, nor should this realization produce a continual sad countenance. To the contrary, it should produce great joy and contentment in us knowing that we have found the only TRUE answer to happiness… one of those sacred paradoxes/Godly ironies based on an accurate ETERNAL PERSPECTIVE).

This is the idea that the “old man” has to be removed, crushed, destroyed and discarded to leave room for the “new man”. Our relationship to God goes deeper still in that we recognize there is absolutely no hope without God’s intervention. We become a true “spiritual beggar”.

II. The Result of Being Poor in Spirit – The Power to Change Lives

The Bible has much too say about how true humility will bring meaning to your life, produce real happiness and transform your behavior. This is the power of Jesus teaching. The supernatural and exclusive power to change lives. It is nothing but head knowledge until the hearer allows Jesus to transform his daily life, behavior, attitudes and responses.

Knowledge that does not change your life, and those around you, is nothing more than a prideful academic exercise. Take Jesus’ words, and let them CHANGE your life!

A. Reward of Heaven

· Jesus himself said that being poor in spirit will be rewarded with the “kingdom of heaven”. Matt 5:3

B. Focus on God

· A true humility puts our focus on God. When we understand our helplessness and dependence on Him, we can’t help looking to him cont

C. Mortification

· Godly humility starves the flesh. We begin to understand how sin separates us from fellowship with the Lord and how our dependence on Him will restore it.

D. Deeper Prayer

· As the effects of humility accumulate they result in deeper prayer and fellowship with God. As a loving Father, God responds to our acknowledgement of our need for Him. “God be merciful to me a sinner” (Lk 18:13)

E. Denial of Self

· The more true humility is cultivated, the less we give our flesh rule in our lives. We understand and practice denying our flesh which denies true humility.

F. Change in Attitude and Behavior

· Understanding our dependence on God, and total helplessness apart from Him should change our attitude:

o Complaining: what is there to complain about? God has saved you, forgiven you. You have eternal life. Complaints? They only show our continued selfishness, and

o Critical spirit: what do you have to be critical about? Others are just as helpless as you. Apart from God, you would be just as bad as the worst person. Who are we to criticize anyone when we are totally dependent on God to do one good act?

o Patience: we are all equally helpless. We should graciously exercise the same patience with others as God as shown to us. Which one of us would not freely admit that God has been MORE than patient with our feeble attempts and failures?

o Compassion: God chose us, drew us, saved us. We had no hope, facing eternal death and punishment. Every person is in the same predicament. God has shown eternal and undeserved compassion towards us. How much more should we show the same to others?

o Forgiveness: The next time you hold unforgiveness for even a moment, remember what God forgave you of… and what he continually forgives you for each day. Be honest. You know… that sin you keep committing over and over. Imagine God’s forgiveness being as stingy and grudging as ours. Learn to forgive like God forgives. Quickly, honestly, repeatedly.

o Optimism: We should begin to cultivate a practice of seeing the good in others and in our circumstances. Our lives should be marked by seeing God’s work and purpose in everything that comes our way, regardless of the nature of the circumstance.

o Serving heart: our lives should transform into loving, caring, serving, and preferring others over ourselves. Christ gave up infinitely more for us. In gratitude to our Saviour, our least response should be that of demonstrating Christ in our life by sacrificial service.

o Praise & thanksgiving: should not the ultimate gift produce the ultimate “thank you”?

Verses on Humility

· Psalm 25:9 The humble He guides in justice, And the humble He teaches His way.

· Psalm 138:6 Though the Lord is on high, Yet He regards the lowly; But the proud He knows from afar.

· Psalm 149:4 For the Lord takes pleasure in His people; He will beautify the humble with salvation.

· Proverbs 15:33 The fear of the Lord is the instruction of wisdom, And before honor is humility.

· Isaiah 66:2 For all those things My hand has made, And all those things exist,” Says the Lord. “But on this one will I look: On him who is poor and of a contrite spirit, And who trembles at My word.

· Matthew 18:4 Therefore whoever humbles himself as this little child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.

· Romans 12:3 For I say, through the grace given to me, to everyone who is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think soberly, as God has dealt to each one a measure of faith.

· 1 Corinthians 3:18 Let no one deceive himself. If anyone among you seems to be wise in this age, let him become a fool that he may become wise.

· Galatians 6:14 But God forbid that I should boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.

· Ephesians 4:2 with all lowliness and gentleness, with longsuffering, bearing with one another in love,

· James 4:6 But He gives more grace. Therefore He says: God resists the proud, But gives grace to the humble.”

· 1 Peter 5:5-6 Likewise you younger people, submit yourselves to your elders. Yes, all of you be submissive to one another, and be clothed with humility, for “God resists the proud, But gives grace to the humble.” Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time

Lesson 2 Notes – Blessed are the Truly Humble

Matthew 5:3 Blessed are the poor in spirit, For theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

“Poor in spirit” is ________________________

Greek: Ptochos (toh kaas) – ________________________

A Christian’s spiritual maturity is directly proportionate to two things:

His understanding of ________________________________________________

His understanding of personal ________________________ ________________________

What effect does true humility have on us?

A right ________________________ of ourselves

A right knowledge of ________________________

What does “poor in spirit” NOT mean?

Not an ________________________ appearance of ________________________ for all to see

Not Physical ________________________

What “poor in spirit” DOES mean

It is ________________________ poverty

The repeating theme is that God is pleased with and desires:

A ________________________ heart

A ________________________ spirit

Mourning and ________________________

The Result of Being Poor in Spirit

Reward of ________________________

Focus on ________________________

________________________ – starving the flesh

Deeper ________________________

Denial of ________________________

Change in Attitude and Behavior

Complaining:

Critical spirit:

Patience:

Compassion:

Forgiveness:

Optimism:

Serving heart:

Praise & thanksgiving:

Lesson 2 – Group Discussion, Private Contemplation & Application

Group Discussion:

1. What is the difference between Godly humility, false humility and the world’s idea of humility?

2. In your own words, how would you explain “poor in spirit” to others?

3. What part of “poor in spirit” stands out most to you at this time?

Private Contemplation:

1. Does your life reflect a true knowledge of our need for God?

2. Has your Christianity truly changed your behavior in any way?

3. Read the “The Result of Being Poor in Spirit” section again. Does your life reflect Godly humility? Deep down, can you honestly say you WANT your life to be characterized by these attributes?

4. Write down things that would tangibly change in your life (behavior, habits, time management, service, personality, etc.) if you were to commit yourself to being “poor in spirit”. What keeps you from this change?

Life Application Suggestions:

1. If you do not have a time of regular prayer, commit to spending the first ten minutes of each day this week asking God to instill in you the desire to be “poor in spirit” and to instill in you the true meaning of it.

2. Besides your spouse, choose one other person in this group and pray each day that God will make these truths REAL in that person’s life.

3. Read Matthew 5:1-12 one time each day this week and spend 5 minutes contemplating and meditating on the words. Ask God to reveal the truth of the words to your heart and mind.

4. Ask God to purge you of any false humility. Ask God to give you wisdom and understanding (James 1) concerning true, Godly humility.

5. Ask God to supernaturally impart the joy that comes from being “poor in spirit”. Ask him to manifest a countenance of joy, peace and contentment in your life so that others may see God in you and want what you have.


[1] Some say the Beatitudes apply to the Millennial time because the standards are impossibly high. This cannot be for several reasons: He wasn’t preaching to Millennial people, he was preaching to people sitting in front of him; Believers won’t be persecuted in the Millennium so Matt 5.10 won’t apply; Matt 5.44 would be meaningless… “Love your enemies…”

[2] Remember, this was very scandalous and difficult for both the common people and the Pharisees. The Pharisees had set up an impossibly complex system of laws and rituals, but not so complex that they couldn’t give the appearance of keeping it themselves. So in the eyes of the people (and their own!) the Pharisees were the most righteous on earth. And yet the Lord was saying that you had to be more righteous (in truth they were not righteous at all) than them if you wanted eternal life.

[3] Luke 18:9-14 Also He spoke this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others: 10 “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11 The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, ‘God, I thank You that I am not like other men—extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I possess.’ 13 And the tax collector, standing afar off, would not so much as raise his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me a sinner!’ 14 I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”

[4] Matthew 12:31 “Therefore I say to you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven men, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven men.

[5] 1 Thessalonians 2:12 that you would walk worthy of God who calls you into His own kingdom and glory.

[6] Romans 15:13 Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.

[7] 1 Peter 1:3-5 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His abundant mercy has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4 to an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and that does not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, 5 who are kept by the power of God through faith for salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.

[8] Luke 6:20 Then He lifted up His eyes toward His disciples, and said: “Blessed are you poor, For yours is the kingdom of God. This verse is part of Jesus overall teaching and should be interpreted in light of Jesus commandments. No where in Scripture does it specifically state that wealth in and of itself is sinful, nor is poverty somehow innately righteous. It is always a matter of the heart.

[9] Mark 10:25 It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.”

[10] Psalm 27:10 When my father and my mother forsake me, Then the Lord will take care of me.

[11] 1 Thessalonians 5:18 in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.

[12] Psalm 50:10 For every beast of the forest is Mine, And the cattle on a thousand hills.

[13] Romans 8:28-30 And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. 29 For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren. 30 Moreover whom He predestined, these He also called; whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified.

[14] 2Samuel 13

[15] Jeremiah 17:9 “The heart is deceitful above all things, And desperately wicked; Who can know it?

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