Blessings of the Poor in Spirit (Matthew 5)
- Liturgical Date: All Saints' Day – November 2, 2014
- Order of Service: Divine Service 3
- Hymns: LSB #451, 676, 601, 678, 669, 677, 813
Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven. (Matthew 5:3)
Jesus begins His public instruction with a simple statement, but it summarizes the entire Sermon on the Mount. Two questions rise from our text. What does being “poor in spirit” look like? What reward is given to the “poor in spirit”?
First, what does being “poor in spirit” look like? The “poor in spirit” have four qualities in abundance: Humility, contentment, submission and gratitude.
The “poor in spirit” are humble. They understand their unworthiness. They are deeply moved by their sin. They deeply marvel at God's grace. Luther's last written words testify: “We are beggars; this is true.” There is no room for pride in the humble heart.
The “poor in spirit” flocked to the Jordan River to hear John preach. God's Word draws people to humble themselves in the Lord's sight, to repent of their sins, to wash their robes and make them white in the blood of the Lamb. Jesus also preached repentance, drawing the humble to His kingdom. He preached God's salvation: “The LORD is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit.”
Mother Theresa of Calcutta was “poor in spirit”. In the poorest slums of Calcutta, Theresa sought to live out Jesus' example and command: “When you give to the needy, sound no trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be praised by others. ... But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing.” Mother Theresa gave of her humble means because it was her calling to give.
The “poor in spirit” are also content. Being content is a mental satisfaction with the circumstances of this life. Being content allows a Christian to see his or her blessed state in this life no matter what the external circumstances may indicate.
Contentment completely opposes covetousness. The Ninth and Tenth Commandments show us the dangers of being covetous. The poor in spirit are happy with their lives regardless of their material possessions. They know that their spiritual possession of faith is most important.
St. Paul says, “I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content.” “For the sake of Christ,then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”
The writer to the Hebrews proclaims: “Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for He has said, 'I will never leave you nor forsake you.'” The love of money is the basest form of covetousness. The “poor in spirit” keep themselves from the love of money so they do not become covetous.
In this keeping and guarding of their soul, the “poor in spirit” show their submission to God. The dreaded s-word. No one likes to submit. It's completely against our human nature. We want to be in charge of our lives. We arrogantly think we know better than God how to run our lives. But the “poor in spirit” submit to God because they believe their own inclinations are sinful and not on par with God's knowledge.
Job submitted to God's allowance of the devil to torment him. When everything was taken away, Job worshipped God, “Naked I came from my mother's womb, and naked I shall return; the LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD.” When his wife tells him, “Curse God and die,” he replies, “Shall we receive good from the hand of God, and shall we not receive evil?” With the exception of his complaining, “Job did not sin or charge God with wrong,” because his life was a life of submission to God.
The great multitude of Revelation 7 submit to God. “Coming out of the Great Tribulation,” they have been “stricken, smitten and afflicted” because they are Christians. These are the troubled saints for whom we sing today, whether we know their names or “no chronicles record” their names. Despite the hardships, they “kept the faith and passed it on with hope steadfast and strong.” “Despised and scorned … in anguish they would weep and sigh” in their earthly lives. But they are with the Lamb because “none shall ever be confounded who on Him their hope have built.”
With this comfort, the “poor in spirit” express their gratitude to their Savior. They praise and give thanks to Him through their prayers, their hymns and their lives. He is the reason for their joy.
The “poor in spirit” can face death because Jesus has died their death for them. “He died to sin, once for all.” He has the keys of Death and Hades. Nothing can spoil His disciples' joy.
The Psalmist is “poor in spirit” because he has been humbled, shown his need for contentment and submitted to God's will. In this state, he is able to show his gratitude. “Praise the LORD! Sing to the LORD a new song … Let Israel be glad in his Maker; let the children of Zion rejoice in their King ... For the LORD takes pleasure in His people.” Since the LORD takes pleasure in the “poor in spirit,” the “poor in spirit” should take pleasure in Him.
Now, the second question. What reward is given to the “poor in spirit”? “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven.” The “poor in spirit” receive the Kingdom of Heaven. The salvation of their souls.
Thus we see the great multitude again. Singing praises to God because they dwell in the shelter of His presence. Because He guides them to springs of living water. Because He has wiped away every tear from their eyes. They swing their palms high and “join in a song with sweet accord.” The sweet accord of the pilgrim throng rejoicing, giving thanks and singing with full and strong voice, with all the angel choirs, with all the saints on earth as we testify when we approach the Lord's table to receive His sacrificed body and blood for the forgiveness of our sins, the strengthening of our faith and the promise of life everlasting. Receiving the inheritance of the “poor in spirit”.
Who is Jesus blessing in this Beatitude? He's blessing you. “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven.” This summarizes the entire Sermon on the Mount. How is He blessing you in this Beatitude? He is giving you the strength to humble yourself to be content with your submission to God and to be grateful for His grace.
He blesses you by reminding you of why He came to earth. He came to make everyone “poor in spirit” so that He might bless them with the Kingdom of Heaven. The reward is yours because He bought it with His body and blood on the cross of Calvary. He freely gives it to you. That's the blessing. The Kingdom of Heaven is a free gift to you. Amen.