Blessed are the poor in spirit

Blessed are the poor in spirit

Sermon on the Mount #2 / The Beatitudes / Matthew 5:3


Last Week’s Message

We started last week with the Sermon on the Mount.  In last week’s message, we introduced this sermon.  There were two points of emphasis mentioned last week:

  • We have to view this sermon as a whole.  This sermon is a forest but oftentimes people become fixated on a tree or two in the forest. The consequence is viewing this tree outside the context of the forest.  We cannot take bits and pieces out of this sermon to build political, social or religious points without considering the whole.  
  • The purpose of this sermon was to refine the disciples of Jesus.  His primary audience was His disciples.  Within this group there were two subgroups:
  1. Those who followed Jesus for the benefits, while rejecting His Deity
  2. Those who followed Jesus while accepting His Deity.  

Therefore, the purpose of this sermon separated the pseudo disciples from the authentic disciples.  This sermon is about:

  1. Loving Jesus
  2. Learning from Jesus
  3. Living for Jesus  

This Week’s Message

Our focus is on the beatitudes.  There are three things I want us to see as I introduce this message:

  • These eight qualities can only be lived out by Christians. These spiritual standards come about only through surrender to the Savior. Jesus is not saying, “Live like this in order to be saved.” He’s saying, “Live like this becauseyou are saved; you are my disciple.” Conduct must flow out of character. A Christian is one who embraces and embodies the Beatitudes. Another way to say it is that if you want to spot a Christ-followerin a crowd, look for these eight character qualities.

A.W. Tozer once wrote: “There is an evil…glaring disparity between theology and practice among professing Christians…An intelligent observer of our human scene who heard the Sunday morning message and later watched the Sunday afternoon conduct of those who heard it would conclude he had been examining two distinct and contrary religions. It appears to me that too many Christians want to enjoy the thrill of feeling right but are not willing to endure the inconvenience of being right”

  • The word “beatitudes” is a Latin word which means the condition or statement of happiness. Within this text, known as the beatitudes, we will discover the condition necessary for true and lasting happiness.  
  • The understanding of the cause of happiness for the Christian is vastly different than that of the world.  


  • Some historical analysis on the word “Blessed.”- The Greeks used makarios:
  1. To refer to their gods and thus "the blessed ones" were the gods.  They were "blessed" because they had achieved a state of happiness and contentment in life that was beyond all cares, labors, and even death.  The blessed ones were beings who lived in some other world away from the cares and problems and worries of ordinary people.  To be blessed, you had to be a god. Homer used makarios to describe a state unaffected by the world of men, who were subject to poverty, weakness, and death.
  2. The Greeks also used makariosin reference to the dead who were "the blessed ones", men and women who, through death, had reached the other world of the gods and so were now beyond the cares and problems and worries of earthly life.  To be blessed, you had to be dead, a state many of us have felt like we would just as well experience because of the nature of our manifold troubles and afflictions at the time.
  3. Finally, the Greeks used makariosto refer to the socioeconomic elite, the wealthy, the idea being (completely false I might add) that their riches and power put them above the normal cares and problems and worries of the lower socioeconomic strata, who constantly struggled to make it in life.  The word “blessed” speaks of happiness based upon God’s approval of our actions.  
  • The NT use of the word MakariosBlessed are the poor in spirit- In Scripture, there are two words translated "blessed,” makariosand eulogetos(from eu= good, well + logos= word), the latter meaning that we speak well of someone (as when we hear a eulogy at a funeral, the eulogy speaking well of that person who has passed on from life to death).  In contrast, makarios is not to speak well ofsomeone, but defines a condition that exists.  In other words, makarios describes something that istrue about someone, not something that someone saysis true about them.  Makarios is a reality, an inward state of truth no matter how you actually feel.  To be "blessed" as defined by makarios, does not mean we have to feel "happy.”  You can still be blessed and act as if you are not happy.  Makarios defines one's state of being in relation to God, independent of how one feels about it at a given moment in time.  There are many times I don't personally feel very "blessed" but the Bible nevertheless declares that regardless of my untoward circumstances, afflictions, trials, etc, I am still "blessed" by God!



In Greek, there are two words for poor. There is the word penēs.  Penēsdescribes a man who has to work for his living, the man for whom life and living is a struggle, the man who is the reverse of the man who lives in affluence.  Penesis defined by the Greeks as describing the man who is autodiakonos, that is, the man who serves his own needs with his own hands.  Penēsdescribes the working man, the man who has nothing superfluous, the man who is not rich, but who is not destitute either. 

This word is used of the widow Jesus saw giving an offering in the Temple. She had very little, but she did have “two small copper coins” (Luke 21:2). She was poor but not a beggar.  

It is not penēs that is used in this beatitude, it is ptōchos, which describes absolute and abject poverty. It is connected with the root ptossein, which means to crouch or to cower; and it describes the poverty which is beaten to its knees. As it has been said, penēsdescribes the man who has nothing superfluous; ptōchos describes the man who has nothing at all.

Illustration: the rich man and Lazarus - Lazarus was destitute.  He could do nothing to improve his situation. He was completely dependent upon someone else for food and help.  

C H Spurgeon commenting on "poor in spirit" advises…

“Learn this lesson—not to trust Christ because you repent, but trust Christ to make you repent; not to come to Christ because you have a broken heart, but to come to him that he may give you a broken heart; not to come to him because you are fit to come, but to come to him because you are unfit to come. Your fitness is your unfitness. Your qualification is your lack of qualification.

None ever considered the poor as Jesus did, but here he is speaking of a poverty of spirit, a lowliness of heart, an absence of self-esteem. Where that kind of spirit is found, it is sweet poverty”

An example of this is 

Luke 18:9–14KJV 1900

And he spake this parable unto certain which trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others: Two men went up into the temple to pray; the one a Pharisee, and the other a publican. The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican. I fast twice in the week, I give tithes of all that I possess. And the publican, standing afar off, would not lift up so much as hiseyes unto heaven, but smote upon his breast, saying, God be merciful to me a sinner. I tell you, this man went down to his house justified ratherthan the other: for every one that exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted.


The Lord did not haphazardly put these beatitudes together.   There is an order to the beatitudes, a logical sequence. Before you we can be filled, we must first be empty.  

There are always two sides to the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  There is the pulling down and the raising up 

Illustration: Simeon said concerning the Lord Jesus Christ - This child is set for the fall and rising up of many.  

Conviction always preceded conversion; Christ condemns before there is redemption.  



The beatitudes clearly show a contrast between how God and the world views life.  

There are two kingdoms out there: The Kingdom of Light and the Kingdom of Darkness.  

The world places so much emphasis on self-reliance, self-confidence, and self-expression.  Yet, Christianity places no confidence in self and all-confidence in God.  

Jeremiah 17:5, “Thus saith the Lord; Cursed be the man that trusteth in man, and maketh flesh his arm, and whose heart departeth from the Lord.”

This feeling of utter helplessness is described in a hymn that Charles Wesley wrote: Jesus, Lover of my Soul: 

Just and holy is thy name

I am all unrighteous

Vile and full of sin I am 

Thou are full of grace and truth

This does not sound appealing.  Imagine if you went to a job application with this lowliness of mind.  You probably would not get the job.  However, this is the state of mind and heart we must have coming to the Lord, if we want to have peace with Him.    


We are so focused on external attributes at the expense of internal pursuits.

  • Sometimes we struggle with listening to a dull preacher - Paul wrote, “For we preach not ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord; and ourselves your servants for Jesus' sake” (2 Corinthians 4:4)  
  • Joel Osteen - Many of Joel Osteen books are not built on the premise of poor in spirit 
  1. I Declare: 31 Promises to Speak Over Your Life -Broken into thirty-one segments, this book defines the most powerful blessings in Scripture and encourages readers to declare one each day for a month.  The declarations will affirm God's blessings in the area of health, family legacy, decisions, finances, thoughts, outlook, and overcoming obstacles.
  2. Become a Better You : 7 Keys to Improving Your Life Every Day - Is this as good as it gets?  Or can you enjoy more of what life has to offer?  Not only can you live happily every day, bestselling author Joel Osteen suggests you must discover the potential within yourself and learn how to use it to live better, and to help others better themselves as well.  God didn't create you to be average. You were created to excel!  You have everything you need to fulfill your God-given destiny, and there is no limit to what you can accomplish if you discover how to be a better you!
  • We have no potential within us.  We are wicked and sinful and wretched before God.  Our potential is God!  “But by the grace of God I am what I am: and his grace which was bestowedupon me was not in vain; but I laboured more abundantly than they all: yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me” (1 Corinthians 15:10).  


  • Keep in mind, we are discussing the quality, condition and character of the spirit.

Isaiah 57:15KJV 1900

For thus saith the high and lofty OneThat inhabiteth eternity, whose name isHoly;I dwell in the high and holy place,With him also that isof a contrite and humblespirit,To revive the spirit of the humble,And to revive the heart of the contrite ones.

“Humble” - depressed

“Contrite” - Crumble, bruise

  • •    Being poor in spirit does not mean we cannot have personality; rather, it is the reality that the decisive power in our ministry is not our personality but God. 

2 Samuel 22:28KJV 1900

And the afflicted people thou wilt save:But thine eyes areupon the haughty, thatthou mayest bring themdown.


John 14:10KJV 1900

Believest thou not that I am in the Father, and the Father in me? the words that I speak unto you I speak not of myself: but the Father that dwelleth in me, he doeth the works.

  1. A complete absence of pride
  2. A complete absence of self-assurance
  3. A complete absence of self-reliance 


“For theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven”

This is in the indicative mood which reflects certainty.  

This is in the present tense 

  • Possessive – We possess this now.
  • Potentate – This possession has a wonderful King, named God.  
  • Prestigious - No earthly kingdom is as high as the heavenly kingdom 
  • Pure - There will be no corruption

Matthew 6:19–20KJV 1900

Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal:

  • Permanent - Heaven is not a temporal but an eternal state.  


None of the other beatitudes fit, if this one is missed.  The problem that is plaguing the Christian name is deficiency in “poor in spirit.”