Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Matthew 5:3 NIV
Jesus led off the Sermon on the Mount by encouraging us to be poor in spirit. I’m trying to understand what exactly that means. One way to do that is by contrasting it with what it is not. So, today I’m going to look at the opposite of being poor in spirit.
An Example of the Opposite of Poor in Spirit
I could try to write something clever to illustrate what I’m learning about what it means to be poor in spirit. But, there is no better teacher than Jesus himself. He told this parable to some folks that were definitely the opposite of poor in spirit.
To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everyone else, Jesus told this parable: “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people — robbers, evildoers, adulterers — or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’ But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’ I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.” Luke 18:9-14 NIV
I know I have a little Pharisee inside of me. I sometimes catch myself looking at another person’s life and feeling just a little superior because I have it more together than they do. If so, it is only by the grace of God and by no means a credit to myself.
Recognizing that we are all sinners and fall short is really the first step — the absolute starting point — of the Christian life. You simply cannot begin to copy Jesus without humbly seeing and admitting your own spiritual bankruptcy.
Humble Yourself Before the Lord
Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, 1 Peter 5:6 ESV
We have no righteousness on our own. It is only by the grace and mercy of Jesus Christ that we are saved. Let us never forget this. Let us never be the opposite of poor in spirit.