Volume. XXXV, No. 3
Sunday, 18 July 2021

Blessed are the Poor in Spirit (Matt 5:1-3)

The beatitudes are the foundation of the Christian life upon which a godly life is built for God's glory. The blueprint of true joy and satisfied living is found in the beatitudes. Jesus calls the disciples to live a life of blessedness. 


Let us take a closer look by considering the first beatitude. "Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of God" (Verse 3). This first beatitude is the foundational key to all other beatitudes. When we read, "Blessed are the poor in spirit," we are not immediately sure what Jesus means. It's clear what the word "poor" means, and we know what "spirit" means. But what does it mean to be "poor in spirit"?  It refers to our spiritual state of abject poverty, which is our true condition before the thrice-holy God. Blessed are those who can see their spiritual bankruptcy in the eyes of God. It is the polar opposite of being rich in our achievements or good deeds or proud in spirit. To be poor in spirit means to recognize our true spiritual condition before God.


The parable of the Tax Collector and the Pharisee may illustrate this truth. One man thought highly of himself, and the other saw his failures and shortcomings. One self-approved and recommended himself to God, but the other man pleaded for God's mercy. One was saved, and the other was not. One man was full of pride; the other was poor in spirit. Just like the first beatitude, the blessed ones, the tax collector was able to see his spiritual poverty in the eyes of God. The Pharisee was full of himself. The boasting of his accomplishments and comparison with the tax collector's bad deeds further revealed the actual condition of his heart. But the tax collector who felt unworthy and begged for mercy was heard by God. Poor in spirit means we are spiritually bankrupt and helpless before God, morally unclean due to our sinful actions and a sense of unworthiness before a holy God.


The first beatitude promise is, "for theirs is the kingdom of heaven." Heaven belongs only to the poor in spirit. There will be none in heaven who are rich in pride for their accomplishments. Heaven belongs to the poor in spirit because God gives it to them as a gift.  Every believer listed in the scriptures knew about this truth. Let us consider ten examples of men of faith or godly men who knew the truth of the first beatitude. Look carefully to the abject poverty in spirit that these godly men described in these verses. (Underlined for emphasis.)


Abraham: As he pleads with God about Sodom and Gomorrah, he said, "Behold, I have taken upon myself to speak to the Lord, I who am but dust and ashes" (Genesis 18:27). 


Jacob: When Jacob returned to the promised land after spending 20 years in exile, he wrestled with God in prayer and said, "I am not worthy of the least of all the steadfast love and all the faithfulness which thou hast shown to thy servant, for with only my staff I crossed this Jordan; and now I have become two companies" (Genesis 32:10).


David:  Both when he fell into sin, and in good times, David knew he was poor in spirit. "The sacrifice acceptable to God is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise" (Psalm 51:17). Indeed, when one sins, he needs to know how terrible and sinful he is, but what about when he is doing good?  When the collection for the temple was being taken, David prayed, "Who am I, and what is my people, that we should be able thus to offer willingly? For all things come from thee, and of thy own have we given thee" (1 Chronicles 29:14). We are what we are by His grace. If we do any good unto Him, it is only by His sovereign grace. Blessed are those who know they are poor in spirit, and they belong to God and His kingdom.


Isaiah: "Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!" (Isaiah 6:5).  It took a vision of God for Isaiah to see how unclean and appalling he was. Yet to such, God gave the call to be chosen and sent in His name.


John the Baptist:  "I baptize with water; but among you stands one whom you do not know, even he who comes after me, the thong of whose sandal I am not worthy to untie... He must increase, I must decrease" (John 1:27; 3:30). I wonder if this is the reason why Jesus said, "Among those born of women, none is greater than John" (Luke 7:28). John understood his unworthy status, and yet he knew he was the forerunner to Christ.


The Canaanite woman: "Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their master's table." To which Jesus responds, "O woman, great is your faith!" This gentile woman was refused help by Jesus as she was not a Jew. But when she held the banner of her being poor in spirit, even she was accepted and commended.


Peter: When he saw the power of Jesus on the Lake of Gennesaret, "Simon Peter fell down at Jesus' knees, saying, 'Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord'" (Luke 5:8).


Paul"I know that nothing good dwells within me, that is, in my flesh..." (Roman 7:18). "I am the foremost of sinners; but I received mercy for this reason, that in me, as the foremost, Jesus Christ might display his perfect patience for an example to those who were to believe in him for eternal life" (1 Timothy 1:15-16). "I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth..." (1 Corinthians 3:6-7).


The world says the blessed are the strong, mighty, wealthy, influential, beautiful, but Jesus says, "Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven." "Nothing in my hand I bring, Simply to Thy cross I cling; Naked, come to Thee for dress, Helpless, fly to Thee for grace. Foul, I to the fountain fly. Wash me, Saviour, or I die." 'Nothing in my hand I bring simply to thy cross I cling', should be our prayer like in the hymn 'Rock of Ages'. Every child of God joyfully should declare, 'I am poor in spirit, yet I am a citizen of heaven because of Christ alone.' Let us empty ourselves of spiritual pride, throw away all our accolades at Jesus' feet. Let us also be thankful for His mercy and grace poured unto undeserving and unworthy sinners like us.


Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.


Rev Mathews

More Lively Hope



  • Due to return of COVID-19 restrictions, Sunday school children & families are to sit physically distanced in the Hall. Adults to sit physically distanced in the Sanctuary. There will be no singing and no tea/coffee after service.
  • Sunday school training will commence for 4 weeks in the Rectory after worship service (8, 22, 29 August and 12 Sept).
  • Contributions are needed for the Missions Fair Cookbook to be sold at Missions Fair this year. 
  • Tithes & offerings are electronic - please see Lively Hope for details.


Praise & Thanksgiving

  • God’s daily guidance, protection & providence for the past week.
  • Journey mercies: Pastor Ki & Sis Myung Ki (Adl); and all who have travelled.


Prayer Requests

  • Healing: Rev Pong Sen Yiew (S’pore) & all others who are unwell.
  • Recovery from COVID-19 - Sis Ang Liang’s husband, Elder Ady, and daughter, Olyvia.
  • COVID-19 situation in Australia.



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