What does it mean to be ‘Poor in Spirit’?

The first recorded teaching of Jesus is found in the book of Matthew.

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 5:3 NIV)

This is considered by many scholars to be Jesus’ most important teaching. The requirement for entering the kingdom of heaven—to be with God forever—is being poor in spirit. This idea is contrary to what the world teaches, and in his day, in particular, this teaching of Jesus was revolutionary.

Many believed that being blessed was to be powerful, rich, and self-sufficient. People who were poor or lacked power, or were afflicted in one way or another were seen as not being blessed. Jesus flipped this script by pointing out that to be truly blessed one must first become poor. In order to be rich in things of the Spirit, one must become poor in things of the flesh.

The Biblical meaning of “poor in spirit” is to empty oneself. Before we can be filled with God’s blessings, we must first be emptied of our self-centeredness. We must recognize that our sin, our rebellion against God, and our pride makes us worthy of condemnation by the God who created us. When we confess that we are spiritually dead in our transgressions and sins (Ephesians 2:1) then we become truly “poor in spirit.”

We must understand that it is impossible to live the Christian life and to follow the teaching of Jesus on our own. If we think we are good and can follow Christ by our own strength, then we are not being poor in spirit. Now this doesn’t mean that we are to be fearful, or shy, rather poor in spirit suggests that we are to be inwardly humble.

God accepts into his Kingdom only those who truly humble themselves before Him. In the old Testament book of Isaiah, the prophet records these words of God:

I live in a high and holy place, but also with him who is contrite and lowly in spirit, to revive the spirit of the lowly and to revive the heart of the contrite. ( Isaiah 57:15).

Remember that in God’s sight we have nothing to boast about. We cannot boast of our wealth, our intellect, our education, our skill, our lineage or our station in life. All these things are worthless and vain. We can bring nothing to God. We can only come to God as empty beings relying on God’s mercy to fill us with spiritual blessings. That’s what it means to be poor in spirit.

Are you ready to humble yourself and submit to God, praying that in due time he will lift you up and make you truly blessed?