Are you a spiritual beggar? And I hope you are. Today’s Little Lesson is a continuation of our previous Little Lesson, as we were looking at the very first thing that Jesus said in the Sermon on the Mount, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”
And just by way of very quick review, I pointed out that we don’t want to make the mistake of looking at the Beatitudes like some people look at their horoscope, picking their zodiac symbol and finding out what their unique destiny is.
They’re unique amongst 12 other symbols that breaks up the entire human race, which is ridiculous when you think about it. But I’m just trying to use that as an example of people sometimes pick out the Beatitudes and look for which one is their special gift or their special thing that applies to them, so that they can claim that particular promise.
I try to point out that the Beatitudes are characteristics that are shared by all people who are blessed people, and blessed people are people who are on the road to heaven. And so these characteristics of a blessed should characterize all believers, and they do characterize all true believers to a greater or lesser degree.
Okay, so the very first one, blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs … listen … is the kingdom of heaven. He’s not just talking about some unique little blessing or even some unique big blessing that a small slice of Christians might get. No, this is talking about the one blessing that we all esteem above all other blessings. The most important blessing, getting into heaven. And the Lord’s making it very clear, the kind of people who get into heaven are not people that just display some unique little characteristic that many others don’t share on the road to heaven. No. This is a characteristic shared by everybody going to heaven. And what is it? They’re poor in spirit.
It’s very important, I think, that we give this some thought. What does it mean to be poor in spirit and am I poor in spirit? I put it out on a previous broadcast that an alternative translation or a connotation within that word poor, as in poor in spirit, it implies one who cowers or crouches, that is a beggar. And so the word poor could also be translated beggarly in spirit. The person who recognizes that they have tremendous needs that they can’t meet themselves, and so they have to resort to…
“I’ve got nothing else I can possibly do. If I’m going to get this blessing, it’s going to put me in the position of begging, because I can’t contribute. I can’t drum this up. I’m in a state of total helplessness and bankruptcy. If I’m going to get this need met…” this is what the beggar thinks “…I’ve got no options. Someone’s going to have to give it to me because they’re gracious and merciful toward me, not because I deserved it or because I earned it.”
Well, you’re getting the spiritual implications here, okay?
In fact, in the margin of my New American Standard Bible, it’s got little number one or two by that phrase poor in spirit, and it says that is not spiritually arrogant. Well, the scribes and Pharisees were the epitome of spiritual arrogance. Remember that time Jesus told the story of the Pharisee and the tax collector. Okay, the Pharisee is praying in the temple, “Oh, God. I thank you that I’m not like other men. I tithe. I fast twice a week and so forth. I’m glad I’m not like that guy over there, that tax collector.”
And the tax collector is poor in spirit. He’s cowering, he’s crouching. He’s unwilling to lift his face to heaven, because he recognizes there ain’t no way I’m going to get into heaven. There ain’t no way I’m going to be saved unless I, the beggar, get mercy from God. That’s it for me. There’s no other options. And Jesus said, truly I say to you, that tax collector who cried out Lord be merciful to me a sinner, he left justified, whereas the Pharisee, full of spiritual arrogance, not poor in spirit, but proud in his spiritual appraisal of himself, left unrighteous, unjustified.
Wow! Important lesson. You can see how this applies to everybody who gets salvation. There’s no other way to get it, folks. You can’t gradually earn it by meriting it over a process of time. Give up, it’s too late for that. We’ve all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.
And this theme, of course, as I said in our previous broadcast, if you’re going to interpret the Bible, if you find a verse that’s hard to interpret, well, look for help in the rest of the Bible, because the themes are consistent. They’re there over and over again, the important ones. And if it’s said in a little bit of an odd or different way, you can find it said in an easier to understand way somewhere else. But God says a lot of the same things in different ways because he’s trying to get people to understand it. Figures I’ll try saying it this way. Maybe they’ll get it if I say it like this.
And this is one of those cases. Blessed are the poor in spirit. There’s a beautiful verse in Isaiah 66. It was one of the very first verses I memorized as a young Christian decades ago. Yeah, I memorized it, but now I have it written down over here. Just have mercy on me. Actually I know what it says. God said, “To this one will I look, to him who is humble and contrite of spirit and who trembles at my word.”
That’s the starting place in a relationship with God. If you want God to look at you, give you some attention, here’s how to get God’s attention. You’re not going to get it by saying, “Well, I’m so glad I’m not like other people,” as you look down your nose. You get it by being humble … listen … and contrite of spirit. That’s Isaiah 66, verse number 22. You might want to look it up. To him, this one … look, who was humble and contrite of spirit, so it shows a humility, a repentance, and who trembles at my word. He’s a believer. He believes what God says, and so therefore, oh, my goodness. I’m a sinner. I’m in trouble. I need mercy. I need grace.
Down on my face, the beggar comes to God. Poor in spirit. And again, this theme is contained throughout all of scripture. God resists the proud, but who does he give grace to? He gives grace to the humble. And that’s what Jesus is saying in this first Beatitude. Blessed are those who are poor in spirit, beggarly, coming to God, recognizing they’ve got nothing to offer. Theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Well, the next Beatitude I think is similar, and related to the first one. It couples right in there. Blessed are those who mourn, Jesus said, for they shall be comforted. As we read through all the Beatitudes, we’ll see again that … I think we will take some time on Little Lessons to go through the Beatitudes … we’ll see repeatedly that these are characteristics shared by every true believer and the blessing that is promised is universal blessings for everyone who believes and acts like a believer. That’s the question we’ll start our next Little Lesson off with, “Are you mournful? And I hope you are.”
See you next time. God bless you.