"Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven" (Matt. 5:3).
In Luke 18:9-14 Jesus tells of two men who went to the Temple to pray. One was a Pharisee, the other a tax collector. The Pharisee boasted to God about his self- righteous efforts; the tax collector humbly acknowledged his sin. The Pharisee was proud and went away still in sin; the tax collector was poor in spirit and went away forgiven.
The Greek word translated "poor" in Matthew 5:3 was used in classical Greek to refer to those reduced to cowering in dark corners of the city streets begging for handouts. Because they had no personal resources, they were totally dependent on the gifts of others. That same word is used in Luke 16:20 to describe Lazarus the poor man.
The spiritual parallel pictures those who know they are spiritually helpless and utterly destitute of any human resources that will commend them to God. They rely totally on God's grace for salvation, and they also rely on His grace for daily living. Jesus called them happy people because they are true believers and the kingdom of heaven belongs to them.
The word translated "theirs" in Matthew 5:3 is emphatic in the Greek text: the kingdom of heaven definitely belongs to those who are poor in spirit. They have its grace now and will fully enjoy its glory later (1 John 3:1-2). That's cause for great joy!
Isaiah 57:15 says, "Thus says the high and exalted One who lives forever, whose name is Holy, 'I dwell on a high and holy place, and also with the contrite and lowly of spirit in order to revive the spirit of the lowly and to revive the heart of the contrite.'" David added, "The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and a contrite heart, O God, Thou wilt not despise" (Ps. 51:17).
Like the humble tax collector, recognize your weaknesses and rely totally on God's resources. Then He will hear your prayers and minister to your needs. That's where happiness begins!
Suggestions for Prayer:
- Thank God that when you come to Him in humility and contrition, He hears you and responds.
- Prayerfully guard your heart from the subtle influences of pride.
Read the following verses, noting God's perspective on pride: Proverbs 6:16-17; 8:13; 11:2; 16:5; 18-19.
From Drawing Near by John MacArthur Copyright © 1993. Used by permission of Crossway Books, a division of Good News Publishers, Wheaton, IL 60187, www.crossway.com.