What is the way to true blessing? How can we have a life that is blessed by God?
Many in this world, including some professing Christian churches, claim that the way to the blessed life is through the power of positive thinking and believing in yourself. “You must be self-confident and have a high self-esteem,” they say. Following in the footsteps of Ralph Waldo Emerson in his essay “Self-Reliance,” they say that you must trust yourself and follow your heart instead of listening to the voice of anyone else.
But Jesus says the way of true blessing is along a different path. As Jesus states at the beginning of his well-known Sermon on the Mount: “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:3). This statement is the first of nine declarations of blessedness by Jesus in his sermon, and according to Jesus, the way of true blessing is through poverty of spirit.
But what does it meant to be “poor in spirit”? First, for the sake of clarity, consider what Jesus does not mean by this phrase. He is not speaking about one’s financial status. You can be poor or rich (or even middle class) and not be poor in spirit. Nor is he speaking about personality traits. You can be introverted or extroverted, shy or bold, cowardly or courageous, and not have poverty of spirit.
So what does it mean to be “poor in spirit”? It means to have a right view of yourself before the living and true God.
First of all, that means we rightly see ourselves as creatures who are dependent upon our Creator. We did not and cannot make ourselves. Nor can we remake ourselves. All things were created by our Triune God.
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As the Apostle Paul writes in Colossians 1:16, “For by [Jesus] all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities – all things were created through him and for him.”
Second, if we are poor in spirit, we recognize that we are not only creatures, but also sinful creatures who have broken the holy law of our God. We have not loved God or our neighbors as we ought. We recognize that we are not to trust our own hearts, because “the heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick” due to sin (cf. Jeremiah 17:9).
To be “poor in spirit” is to realize that you have no resources within yourself for true blessing, and that you are spiritually destitute apart from God’s grace. The result of a true poverty of spirit is a humble heart that looks in complete dependence to Jesus Christ, who is the only source of true blessing. It is through the work of Jesus Christ as the only savior of sinners, and through faith in him that we can receive “every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 1:3).
But how can we become poor in spirit? Not through mustering it up in yourself but by seeing the greatness of God and humbling yourself before him and asking him to remake your heart to be humbly dependent upon him by the grace of Christ.
Then you will know the greatest of blessings: fellowship with the living God who said, “I dwell in the high and holy place, and also with him who is of a contrite and lowly spirit, to revive the spirit of the lowly, and to revive the heart of the contrite” (Isaiah 57:15).