Matthew 5:3 (KJV)
3 Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
I know pride. I lived there for years, growing deeper and deeper inside myself. My life revolved around what I wanted and what I knew to the point that I shut others out. My wife generally had no say in anything, and I put her down consistently in her spiritual life because I was so into myself. I enjoyed the praises of men even though I would also say God should get the glory. I ignored her voice in raising our children many times, thinking I knew best. And when it came to spiritual matters I always thought I had it all in control. I had to have control in every situation, to the point of driving her to not share with me her ideas on things. She just let it ride and fell into depression over my lack of caring. She tried many times to point out my pride, but I did not see it and just told her I was a humble man, giving glory to God. In fact most people saw me as a humble man. There were a few others that saw the arrogance, and one even mentioned it to my boss. That prompted a discussion and I tried to understand, but I could not. To me it was just self-confidence. I’m amazed she put up with me
It got to the point that I thought I could get away with anything, and I started taking liberties I should not have. Liberties that clearly were a violation of God’s laws and my workplace policies. But I thought I was above the law. i thought God understood. I thought my boss would never fire me. After all, I had been there 20 years and brought them around 20% of their revenue personally and I managed the sales team. I thought I was irreplaceable. All of this was hidden until one day it was uncovered. My world came crashing down around me. I was fired on the spot.
I called my wife and asked her to come home from work and broke the bad news, sin and all. She was devastated, especially because we had fought this battle before and she thought I had it beaten. But I fell back in and kept it from her. Trust that she had built back up evaporated on the spot. We met with my Pastor with the same reaction. He had prayed hours upon hours with me at the altar to overcome my sin and thought I had beaten it. He allowed me back on the platform and back in the pulpit only to see me betray that trust. He said he would find help and he did. He found Pure Life Ministries and told me I had to go there if I ever wanted to set foot in his church again. So we raised the money and I went.
It was there that I learned how full of pride I really was. All of these things were the result of pride that had grown unchecked for years and years. I was even prideful when they pushed me back in the program, thinking they pushed me back so I could help the new people coming ion. I was proud of my pride! It was here that I learned what this first beatitude is talking about – being poor in spirit. I was rich in my own spirit. I trusted in myself to know the answer, to control the situation, and to always believe God understood when I did the wrong thing. I thought I was relying on God,m but it was all head knowledge. I was a Pharisee if you want to put a biblical title on it. The outside of the cup looking squeaky clean, but inside I was full of filth and corruption. Once I saw it, I worked hard to rid myself of it. But what I learned is that you can not be rid of it. You just have to learn to control it. You do that by taking on humility and being poor in spirit.
I do not think it is any coincidence that Jesus starts off this major speech on our attitudes saying that we should be poor in spirit. Poor in Spirit is humility and is probably the most important virtue we can have in our Christian walk. Why? Because God hates pride (Prov 6:16). God resists people that are proud (I Peter 5:5).
Second Chronicles 7:14 is looked at by many as the ultimate scripture to cite for answered prayer. It promises and answer and is spoken ton Samuel by God. It is the Lords own words. We should take it seriously. In this passage, the very first thing God says we should do when we come to Him is humble ourselves. Before we pray, before we seek Him, before we turn from our wicked ways, we need to humble ourselves. We must take pride out of the other three activities of praying, seeking and turning before we can have our prayers answered in the way He promises to answer them here. And I think this is where many in the church, and the church in general miss it. We do not humble ourselves first. We go right into our prayer requests, or right into that scripture search to seek and answer, or right into confessing our sins on the surface, but not from the heart. Humility is not something we take kindly to. We like to be rich in our spirits, to feel good and upright and just. We don’t like to feel lowly and weak in our faith.
But when we rad the parable of the Pharisee and the publican who come to the altar to pray, it is the publican who comes away justified (Luke 18:10-14). The Pharisee touted His good works. The publican smote his breast ( a sign of remorse) and asked God to be merciful to him as a sinner. God honors the second prayer more than the first. In the Psalms, we see many times the psalmist starts out with praise to God before he goes into his own problems. He lifts God up first. In the Lord’s prayer it begins with lifting God up and exalting Him. Humbling ourselves is putting God on the throne, not me. Her is in charge, not me. He holds the answers, not me. He controls when the answer will come and how it will come, not me. When have faith in that I begin to be poor in spirit.
Micah 6:8 King James Version (KJV)
8 He hath shewed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the Lordrequire of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?
We do not like to think that God requires anything of us, but this verse is pretty clear. I am going to center on the last requirement for purposes of this post but the other two will come u later. Yes, these three requirements are all in the beatitudes, so they are as much New Testament teachings as Old. It is not a matter of putting you back under the law. These are things that are matters of the heart. He requires that we walk humbly before Him. What does that mean?
First, it means obedience. Psalms 51:17 says to obey is better than sacrifice. We can give all we want but if we are not obedient it does not matter a hill of beans. I may tithe to my church 15% on an ongoing basis. I may be one of the top givers in my church. Then a missionary comes to the church and I am not all that into missions personally. I give my money to the local assembly where I am fed on an ongoing basis. That’s enough for me. When the Spirit prompts me to give $100 to the missionary (which I can easily do) I hear it as my emotions being carried away by his message and I ignore it. I have just become disobedient. Or maybe the Spirit prompts me to give some groceries to a family that is really in need. He asks me to just buy them and just put them on the doorstep unknown to them. I just slough off the words inside my head. That is disobedience.
To obey means to put what God wants first, no matter how it makes me look. When we put God first, we put others first. Phil 2:3-4 says this: 3 Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves. 4 Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others. This is poor in spirit defined. In lowliness of mind, let us esteem others. Their needs, their desires, their hurts, their pain. This is the basis of intercessory prayer. Humility flows when we put others above ourselves.
The second key to humility is the fear of the Lord. Proverbs 22:4 tells us “By humility and the fear of the Lord are riches, and honour, and life.” The fear of the Lord and humility are coupled together here for a reason. When we make sure God is in His rightful place in our lives, we will not exalt ourselves. after all, when we look at who we are in comparison to Him, we have no reason to be exalted. We are but lowly sinners, only saved by His amazing grace and mercy. How can we possibly exalt ourselves? I Proverbs 27:2, we read “Let another man praise thee, and not thine own mouth; a stranger, and not thine own lips.” Self-exaltation comes from God. Boasting of my accomplishments, my giving, my prayer life – all of these things are exalting self, which is pride. There is nothing wrong with informing people about something you have done in the past week or month, but doing in as means of exalting yourself is pride. it lifts you up, not God. Let us strive for humility by exalting God in all things. This is being poor in spirit.
What comes when we are poor in spirit? We are then walking in the Kingdom of God. Right now, right here. There is no waiting for a future time when he returns, or for better days ahead. If we walk in humility, esteeming others, lifting God above all else, we are walking in the Kingdom now. All the benefits of this kingdom become ours. All the promises of His word become real to us. He is our King and we are His servants. He is a good King who loves His servants and came here to serve us. He still serves us today, providing for our needs, protecting us from harm, healing our diseases, delivering us from evil, healing us overcome temptations. This is Kingdom living. It is for the poor in spirit today. Are you ready to live in the Kingdom of Heaven?
The parable of the rich young ruler is a wonderful one to show us what it takes to enter the Kingdom of Heaven. It is found in Matthew 19:16-24:
16 And, behold, one came and said unto him, Good Master, what good thing shall I do, that I may have eternal life?
17 And he said unto him, Why callest thou me good? there is none good but one, that is, God: but if thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments.
18 He saith unto him, Which? Jesus said, Thou shalt do no murder, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness,
19 Honour thy father and thy mother: and, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.
20 The young man saith unto him, All these things have I kept from my youth up: what lack I yet?
21 Jesus said unto him, If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come and follow me.
22 But when the young man heard that saying, he went away sorrowful: for he had great possessions.
23 Then said Jesus unto his disciples, Verily I say unto you, That a rich man shall hardly enter into the kingdom of heaven.
24 And again I say unto you, It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God.
Briefly, this rich young ruler could not give up what God had blessed him with and decided to walk away from Jesus. Jesus tells His disciples it is harder for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of Heaven than for a camel to go through the eye of the needle. We can look at that and say impossible! The eye of a needle?
The eye of the needle was a very twisted passageway that enter the wall of Jerusalem. It was meant for foot travelers only because it was narrow, winding, and low in height. For a camel to go through this passageway, it would have to unload all it’s burden outside the wall and crawl on it’s knees. this is a very difficult thing for a camel to do in the first place. To do this and maneuver the turns makes it even more difficult.
Do you see the picture of humility here? Unload your burdens and get down on your knees. Depend on God for everything and bow before Him, exalting Him. This life is not about us. It is about us serving others as Christ came to serve us. It is about us lifting God to the throne of our lives and exalting Him. To enter the Kingdom of Heaven these things must be done. It is a glorious place to be, but it will take giving ourselves up to get there.
Are you ready to give yourself up, lay down your burden, and bow before Him? Are you ready to live in the Kingdom of Heaven? Blessed are the Poor in spirit! “Humble yourself in the sight of the Lord and He will lift you up.” (James 4:10)