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Why the poor in spirit are blessed

For most of my life I’ve not really understood Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount. It’s all there in black and white, but it seems so counterintuitive, it hasn’t made sense. “Blessed are the poor in spirit,” he says, and right off the bat, I’m full of questions. What does it mean to be poor in spirit…
By Seth Barnes
By Seth Barnes

For most of my life I’ve not really understood Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount. It’s all there in black and white, but it seems so counterintuitive, it hasn’t made sense.

“Blessed are the poor in spirit,” he says, and right off the bat, I’m full of questions.

  • What does it mean to be poor in spirit?
  • How is that like being poor?
  • Why are they particularly blessed as opposed to some other group?
  • How are  they blessed?
  • Aren’t you blessed if you are rich in spirit?

Here’s the first line of the first and most thorough sermon Jesus preached, and already I’m struggling to keep up.

And then Jesus adds, “for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”

What?? What is the kingdom of heaven – is that heaven or earth? Why do the poor in spirit get it and not someone else? It’s hard to be Jesus’ disciple. And then when you look at the first thing a lot of us Christians say to people (about sin and salvation and praying a one-and-done prayer), it really gets me confused. Jesus didn’t start there.

As I’ve tried to understand what Jesus was talking about, what’s helped me is to watch World Racers go through their year.

Most of them start out anything but poor in spirit. Their parents have worked hard to provide them with the best education possible. They’ve tried to protect them from harm as much as possible. They have little experience with failure.

And then the process of abandoning that life and becoming a vagabond for a year gradually undoes them. Leaving home, family, jobs, and friends behind equips them with a poverty they never lived in before. And eventually, it catches up with their spirit. It wears on them. They begin to break and change.

In short, they transform from the protected elite to the poor in spirit. It’s a hard transition, but it forces them to their knees. They begin to call out to God in new ways. In their newly humbled state, aware of their need, they begin to seek God with a new desperation.

If he doesn’t show up, they are toast. Their own resources aren’t enough – their spiritual shelves are empty. And in that place of need, God shows up and reorders the economy of their lives.

The things that used to have value – clothes, cars, status and comfort – are no longer so attractive. But in this place of spiritual poverty, racers experience the presence of God in a new way. They see the kingdom in a new light, maybe for the first time. And what a blessing that is! Wow – to begin to see the world as God does, to prioritize things as he does – that can be an incredible blessing.

Broken, undone, poor in spirit, but blessed by God. Seeing things as they are. Understanding how he redeems pain and feeling him love you through it. It can be overwhelming.

It’s taken a while, but I’m beginning to understand what Jesus was talking about. He compares the kingdom to a treasure, a pearl of great price. I’m beginning to understand why it’s so costly. I’ve still got questions, but I’m starting to get a few answers.

Comments (5)

  • It all started with my pastor preaching on the Beatitudes. Then I started reading them. Then studying them. Writing pages of notes. Learning things I never new before. Dig deep and you’ll find treasures in those 8 beatitudes. Blessed are the meek was the first to jump at me and pray over and for and still pray for. Jesus was and is the meekest individual ever there was on earth. It’s a supernatural work of the spirit. This world race thing has got to carve, meld,and change a human in ways we can never experience in western civilization. Again that Godly jealousy rises in me. Hearing questions like: “Could you do that? Could you let go of everything for a year? Give up what you do, and have here?” A question everyone needs to ask as we live in the end times as well.

  • after experiencing this in a profound way this year, i would “give nothing for my journey.”

    firmly believe that a prescription for many first world problems is a journey that invites and involves brokenness.

    and then perhaps, we in the first world, would care more for the needs around us and far away than merely pontificate about them.

    thanks seth.

  • I am experiencing a brokenness that is deep to my core. Yet I know the missionary journey is a whole different brokenness. I also know God does not discount what is happening in my little life and heart here in Pennsylvania. When God opens the door for suffering and letting go on different levels, I have been asking for His preparation of my heart to follow Him. I only want to please my savior whom I am lovesick over.
    Eccl. 1:8; 2:11 (same book); 3:11,14; now the lovesick heart….Song of Solomon 5:2-8. Oh how I love Him, Seth. God bless you brother and all your offerings and pure works for Christ. Someday we shall all worship before God’s throne together!

  • I know the following comments will be controversial but I think the application has the truth in it.
    James Dobson had a guest on today and she made a comment about Matt. 5:3 “Blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” that I hadn’t considered as an application. I think it’s clear that it refers to those of a repentant and contrite heart, but her application applies to those that are downtrodden in spirit; the poor inner city single mom who has little hope that her children will break out of the cycle of poverty; the child who has suffered abuse and has lost his way and lives in dejection and despair; the desperately poor in developing countries that live with hunger, lack of medical help and despair; the drug addicted that lives in a cloud or confusion without hope. The spirit of dejection, which sees no end in sight. I have met many in my Christian walk that live in utter hopelessness and are overcome with a “poor spirit.”

    Jesus was anointed to open the eyes of the blind, to bring out prisoners from the dungeon, and those who dwell in darkness.” Surely this defines those with impoverishment of spirit and I believe these are those who are quickest to respond to His message.


    In order to discredit the words of Jesus when He said “…and has been baptized shall be saved,”(Mark 16:16) you have to discount THE SPIRIT-THE WATER-and-THE BLOOD. It cannot be accomplished without ignoring, or perverting God’s word.

    1 John 5:5-8 Who is the one who overcomes the world, but he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God? 6 This is the One who came by water and blood, Jesus Christ; not with water only, but with water and with blood. It is the Spirit who testifies, because the Spirit is truth. 7 For there are three that testify: 8 the Spirit and the water and the blood; and these three are in agreement.


    Matthew 3:15-17 But Jesus answering said to him, “Permit it at this time; for in this way it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.” The he permitted Him. 16 After being baptized, Jesus came up immediately from the water; and behold, the heavens were opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending as a dove and lighting on Him, 17 and behold, a voice out of the heavens said, “This is My beloved Son,in whom I am well-pleased.

    WATER AND SPIRIT CONNECTION. Even though Jesus was without sin He had to be baptized in order to fulfill all righteousness. A water and Spirit connection is seen here, just as the water and Spirit connection is seen in (Acts 2:38).

    John 19:34 But one of the soldiers pieced His side with a spear, and immediately blood and water came out.


    John 3:5 Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.


    Titus 3:5-6 He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit. 6 whom He poured out upon us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior,

    THE WATER-THE SPIRIT-THE BLOOD-CONNECTION. The water (the washing of regeneration). The Spirit (renewing by the Holy Spirit). The blood (through Jesus Christ our Savior).

    Acts 2:36 Therefore let all the house of Israel know for certain that God has made Him both Lord and Christ—this Jesus whom you crucified.”
    Acts 2:38 Peter said to them, “Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.

    THE SPIRIT (the gift of the Holy Spirit)
    THE WATER (baptized for the forgiveness of sins)
    THE BLOOD (this Jesus whom you crucified)

    2 Corinthians 1:20-22 For as many are the promises of God, in Him they are yes; therefore also through Him is our Amen to the glory of God through us. 21 Now He who establishes us with you in Christ and anointed us is God, 22 who sealed us and gave us the Spirit in our hearts as a pledge.




    YOU ARE INVITED TO FOLLOW MY BLOG. http//:steve-finnell.blogspot.com

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Seth Barnes

I'm motivated to join God in his global reclamation project. He's on the move, setting his sons and daughters free from their places of captivity. And he's partnering with those of us who have been freed to go and free others.

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