Why We Should All Want to be Poor

Updated: Aug 26, 2018



Principles in the Kingdom of God are often quite opposite to what makes sense to the natural, un-renewed mind. Love your enemies (Matthew 5:44), for example. Why would we voluntarily choose to demonstrate love by meeting the needs of the very people who actively seek our downfall? (Proverbs 25:21-22) Or what about how the word teaches us that greatness is achieved through servanthood and humility (Matthew 23:11-12). This flies in the face of the world’s advice on greatness and success. World leaders teach self-focused tips on getting noticed like “if you are a little different, or a little outrageous, or if you do things that are bold or controversial, the press is going to write about you” (The Independent). Jesus was no stranger to teaching Kingdom principles that were counter-culture both back then and even still, now. Here’s one to chew on for a little while:


Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” – Matthew 5:3 (‘core verse’)


Who in their right mind would ever see poverty on any level as a life goal? Yet Jesus taught that the poor in spirit are blessed, because the Kingdom of heaven is theirs. There are a three key questions worth answering, in order to see what Jesus was saying here. Let's look at these in turn.


1) What does it mean to be poor in spirit?

Jesus often used earthly examples to teach spiritual principles. So we can learn much about what it means to be poor in spirit by thinking about what it means to be poor in the natural sense. So what does poverty look like? In a credit driven society like the United Kingdom, poverty can be disguised through credit facilities such as payday loans, car finance agreements and ‘buy-now-pay-later’ schemes. These facilities allow many people to look much wealthier than they actually are. So we can easily lose sight of what real poverty looks like in a society like this. So let’s strip away access to credit when thinking through our example here. Let’s think about the overlooked homeless man we walk past every single day.


Those who are desperately poor in the earthly sense typically lose all pride, humbling themselves enough to beg for money from strangers. Why is this? Because they realise that there’s nothing to be gained in pretending to have money. If they become so proud that they refuse to ask passers-by for money, they might not eat that day. And if this carried this on day-by-day, they’ll likely never eat again.


Being poor in spirit starts with acknowledging our sin crisis, and our need for God’s salvation. If righteousness was a currency, the poor in spirit acknowledge that they’ll never have enough to survive, based on their own means. They recognise that even with their best efforts, there’s no amount of good works they can offer to be justified before God (see Romans 3:20, Galatians 2:15-16). They recognise the magnitude of their sin-debt against God, and the impossibility of ever being able to settle the debt themselves. The poor in spirit empty themselves of all pride and self-reliance, and plead for the mercy of God to balance their account. Rather than being the proud person who thinks they’re spiritually well-off through either ignorance or pretence, the poor in spirit surrender their empty accolades and call out for God’s mercy (see Luke 18:9-14).


2) What does it mean to be blessed?

This is an extremely important question for each of us to really think through. It’ll determine our durability when faced by the storms of persecution and suffering. It’ll also determine our durability when we experience great prosperity and provision.

The natural, un-renewed mind assumes that one is blessed when things go well with you, and cursed when they don’t. This is not true in God’s Kingdom (see Matthew 5:10-11, the story of Joseph – Genesis 37 onwards and the book of Job for a few examples). ‘Blessed’ in our core verse means: fortunate, well-off, happy and enviable based on God’s provision (Bible Hub).


Our limited earthly minds usually resist delayed gratification and wrongly assume that present sufferings are a sign of never-ending tragedy and bleakness. Yet in the Kingdom of God, we learn to see further ahead than just the present, such that an eternal mindset causes us to rejoice, knowing that the future is unchangeably bright for God’s children. So even when we’re persecuted, mistreated and falsely accused in the present, we rejoice knowing that we’ll eternally reign and rule with all joy in a time to come (see Matthew 5:10-11, 2 Corinthians 4:7-18, Revelation 21:1-4, 2 Timothy 2:11-12a, Revelation 5:9-10). And even when we experience the greatest earthly prosperity, we don’t put our hope in it - because we know it’s nothing compared to what is to come in eternity. For these reasons, the poor in spirit are indeed blessed. Not because they’re guaranteed things will always be easy on earth. Nor because they have excessive earthly wealth and prosperity. But regardless of their earthly circumstances, their poorness in spirit causes them to rely on and hope entirely in God’s salvation and promise of eternal life. Nothing compares to eternal happiness, joy, peace and provision free from wickedness and evil. So the poor in spirit will endure both momentary earthly difficulty and prosperity with this eternal view in mind.


3) How is poverty wealth and the road to salvation?

God requires us to humble ourselves in order to receive His grace (unmerited favour) and the gift of eternal life (see James 4:6, Ephesians 2:8-9). So contrary to ideologies that teach self-righteousness as the currency to gain eternal life, the Kingdom of God makes the truth plain. In God’s Kingdom, humbly acknowledging our sin-debt and need for God’s salvation is the only way to receive the gift of life eternal. Many of us may acknowledge this as the mere initial requirement to be saved, but we ought to pay closer attention to the promise in our core verse.


Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” – Matthew 5:3


The kingdom of Heaven belongs to those who are the poor in spirit, not those who were the poor in spirit. We don’t get saved, then somehow lose sight of our spiritual bankruptcy, absent of God's grace. As God’s children, we have to continually remain aware that our infinite sin-debt was wiped clean by our merciful and generous Father. If we lose sight of this reality and perceive ourselves as no longer poor in spirit, there remains no promise in our core verse or beyond that we have any eternal hope or place in the kingdom of heaven.

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