Matthew 5:3

3Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.    
        ---NIV New International Version

3You're blessed when you're at the end of your rope.
With less of you there is more of God and his rule. 
        ---MSG The Message Bible

3God blesses those who realize their need for him,
for the Kingdom of Heaven is given to them.   
        ---NLT New Living Translation

3God blesses those people who depend only on him. 
        ---CEV Contemporary English Version

3Happy the poor in spirit -- because theirs is the reign of the heavens. 
        ---YLT Young's Literal Translation

3Blessed are those who are spiritually needy.
The kingdom of heaven belongs to them. 
        ---NIRV New International Readers Version

3God makes happy those who know that they need him.
The kingdom of heaven is for them. 
        ---WE Worldwide English (New Testament)

How happy are the humble-minded,
for the kingdom of Heaven is theirs!      
        ---J. B. Phillips Translation

3Blessed (happy, to be envied, and spiritually prosperous--
with life-joy and satisfaction in God's favor and salvation,
regardless of their outward conditions) are the poor in spirit
(the humble, who rate themselves insignificant),
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven!      ---AMP The Amplified Bible
[Underlining added for clarity and to distinguish between actual verse

and the amplification.]

3 O the bliss of those who realize the destitution of their own lives,
for the blessings of the Kingdom of Heaven are theirs here and now.
        ---Translation by William Barclay

3Blessed are those who feel poor in spiritual things,
for the kingdom of heaven belongs to them. 
        ---Translation by Charles B. Williams

People who do not hold tightly to things are happy
because all of God's kingdom is theirs.        
        ---Source not known to me

Cheer up, you depressed, for the kingdom of heaven is yours.
What more could you want? Things may be rough now, but
hang in there; the future I have planned for you will be glorious! 
        ---Sylvia Klauss


The poor in spirit know they need God.--That's the conclusion I come
to from reading the various translations and paraphrases of this verse.
Another attribute of the poor in spirit is humility. Ben Franklin had a list
of 12 virtues. When someone pointed out to him that his list did not
include humility, Ben added it as #13 at the end of his list. Jesus put
humility at the beginning, as though it's the first step in our life with God.

Here's a word picture showing someone poor in spirit contrasted to
another person who wasn't:
            "Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and
            the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood up and prayed
            about himself: 'God, I thank you that I am not like other men--
            robbers, evildoers, adulterers--or even like this tax collector.
            I fast twice every 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.''' (Luke 18:10-13, NIV)

Another picture from the heart of Jesus is the familiar story in Luke 15,
about the prodigal son and the waiting father. When the prodigal returned
home hungry and in rags, he confessed,
            "Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you.
            I am no longer worthy to be called your son."

There are many ways to search out the meaning of Jesus' teaching.
We could discuss the concepts of spiritual poverty, destitution and
dependency. We can look up definitions in the dictionary. Poor in spirit--
It's probably easier to say what it isn't, than what it is. And we are told
that as soon as we think we are, or have been, humble--beware; pride
just replaced it! So what are we to do with this beatitude? What is this
gem, this cornerstone of God's kingdom, which we need but cannot claim?

A few people down through the ages have relinquished all possessions
in order to be literally poor and serve God without the distractions of
ownership. While we admit that we do get possessed by our possessions
and spend much time acquiring and maintaining those things we own,
most of us do not believe that God wants us to live such an extreme
lifestyle. Yet within our daily lives, Jesus says, "Blessed are the poor in
spirit." And we need to learn what this means and what is the change
that must take place in our own lives.

While on the subject of literal poverty, we must not ascribe traits to the
poor that are not real. Most of the world's poor are neither happy nor
content. Many are bitter, angry, and without hope. Some of the poor
only a mother could love (mother as in Mother Teresa). The poor are
not to be envied, nor glamorized.

Yet there is something about poverty that Jesus is holding up to us.
No matter how much we squirm, object, or rebel against it, the first
step toward God's kingdom is the attitude of being poor within our spirit.
What is the characteristic of poverty that opens one to being blest?
Unencumbered by material things, free of the excess baggage that
requires our attention and robs us of . . . what? . . . our dependency on
God?! The kingdom of heaven is there if we go straight toward it with
open, empty hands. But if we come clutching many things, we may get
distracted and not find it. God's gifts must not replace our need for God!

What do I need God for? Did you ever ask yourself that question?
Here is how one person answered that question:

  • To be a loving Father who accepts me as a dearly-loved child.
  • To keep me from being alone.
  • To show me my sins, forgive them and set me free from the past.
  • To direct my life and teach me what is good.     
  • To enjoy his presence in prayer and meditation, 
            leading me through trouble and keeping me close 
            to him when things settle down and go well.     
  • To make a path through life for me to walk on.     
  • To satisfy my hungry soul.
  • God is the one constant throughout my life--always there, 
            God's loving faithfulness endures forever.
  • I am not ashamed of being dependent upon God. 
            It doesn't make me weak; it makes me stronger.

Many people think Saint Paul has had a greater influence on the Christian
Church, past and present, than any other person. Yet he called himself
the least of the apostles. In 1st Corinthians 15, while he was laying out
his belief in the resurrection, Paul got personal. He described how Jesus
was seen in his resurrected body by Peter, and the Twelve. After that
Jesus appeared to more that 500 people, then to James and all the
apostles. And then, "last of all, Jesus appeared to me also, as to one
abnormally born. For I am the least of the apostles and do not even
deserve to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of
God. But by the grace of God I am what I am. . . ." (I Cor. l5:8-10 NIV)
Paul knew himself too well, and there was no room for pride.

By the grace of God! How we need that grace. I was in a Sunday School
class last weekend; the topic was the gifts of the Spirit. The question
came up--"What if we don't use our gifts?" A spontaneous answer came
at once--"Then we miss out." We miss out on the joys and blessings that
come from using our gifts. Someone added, "We miss the bus." Then
grace entered the discussion because God's mercies are fresh each day.
The bus will come again in the morning and we are given another chance
to use our gifts. The bus also comes every evening and throughout the
day. God is familiar with our failures, and our good intentions never acted
upon. God knows our fears, our moods which depress, our excuses.
But the bus of God's grace keeps coming with the invitation to board and
enter with faith into the kingdom of heaven.

From my sister I learn that, "the Greek word used in Matt. 5 for blessed
is makarios. The karios part comes from the word kairo which means
rejoice. So the first part of verse 3 would literally read, 'Joyful the poor
in spirit.' There is no verb; the translators put "are" in there. You could
just as well say 'Be joyful the poor in spirit. . .'"  Be joyful; God's grace
is available in abundance.

What is spiritual poverty? Try to picture in your mind a bag lady or vent
man in the streets of your nearest big city. Then imagine that you are
dressed in similar form. How does it feel to be dressed in dirty clothes
and needing a shower? Bring yourself into God's presence now, dressed
in your beggar's clothes, and ask God to give you what you need. Run
that scene through your mind for awhile. What do you see in yourself?
In God? What words do you hear from your mouth? From God? Are
there any onlookers? If so, what is their reaction? Now imagine that you
are surprised by an atmosphere of great joy. God is smiling broadly.
You hear happy music. God offers you the gift of all that you will ever
need, forever. Pause in your thinking to consider what God wants to
give you. How did you respond to God? Did you accept the gift? As you
make your decision, you hear the words, "Blessed are the poor in spirit,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven." As you leave the realm of your
imagination and your encounter with God has ended, do you look or
feel any differently?

Whenever you look into the eyes of any poor person, let them bless your
life by reminding you that the first step in knowing God is to become poor
in spirit. The poor in spirit depend totally on God. As in Psalms 23,
"The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want" nor be forsaken.

Therefore rejoice!
Be joyful; the grace of God is available in abundance.
The grace of God is for you.

                    prev                                                                     next