A devotional book from Gary: The Measure of One’s Life book
Matthew 5:1-3 (ESV)
1 Seeing the crowds, he went up on the mountain, and when he sat down, his disciples came to him.
2 And he opened his mouth and taught them, saying:
3 “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
In Matthew 5 we have the opening lines of Jesus’ famous Sermon on the Mount, and that sermon begins with eight positive statements about happiness that we’ve come to call the Be-attitudes.
Jesus says I want to teach you that happiness doesn’t depend on having the right circumstances, it depends on having the right attitudes.
Now it’s interesting to me that of all the subjects that Jesus could have picked to start the greatest, most famous sermon of all time, he chose to speak on, “How to Be Happy.”
Isn’t that fascinating? Do you know why? Because he knew that is what everybody wants and what so few people find.
Being a master Teacher, our Lord did not begin this important sermon with a negative criticism of the scribes and Pharisees. He began with a positive emphasis on righteous character and the blessings that it brings to the life of the believer. Jesus described Christian character that flowed from within.
Jesus says it’s not how much we have that makes us happy, it’s what we are that makes us happy.
It doesn’t depend upon the circumstances outside, it depends upon the attitude inside.
What Jesus is getting at then is that happiness is a choice. You choose it as you choose the right attitudes.
“Blessed are the poor in spirit.” What is poverty of spirit? It is the opposite of that haughty, self-assertive, and self-sufficient disposition that the world so much admires and praises.
It is the very reverse of that independent and defiant attitude that refuses to bow to God, that determines to brave things out, and that says with Pharaoh, “Who is the Lord, that I should obey His voice?” (Ex.5:2).
Our attitude toward ourselves (v. 3).
In Greek, the word that is used for poor is the word ptochos. In Greek there are two words for poor. There is the word penes. Penes describes a man who has to work for his living; it is defined by the Greeks as describing the man who is autodiakonos, that is, the man who serves his own needs with his own hands. Penes describes the working man, the man who has nothing superfluous, the man who is not rich, but who is not destitute either.
The word used in this beatitude, it is ptochos, which describes absolute and abject poverty.
It is connected with the root ptossein, which means to crouch or to cower; and it describes the poverty which is beaten to its knees.
So this beatitude becomes even more surprising. Blessed is the man who is abjectly and completely poverty-stricken. Blessed is the man who is absolutely destitute.
“Blessed are the poor in spirit” means: Blessed is the man who has realised his own utter helplessness, and who has put his whole trust in God.
The poor in spirit realize that they cannot please God on their own. They are “poor” or “bankrupt” inwardly, unable to give anything of value to God and thus must depend on his mercy.
Only those who humbly depend on God are admitted into the kingdom of heaven. In this beatitude and in the very last one (5:10) the reward is the same. And in both places the reward is described in the present tense—”theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”
To be poor in spirit is to realize that I have nothing, am nothing, and can do nothing, and have need of all things.
To be poor in spirit means to be humble, to have a correct estimate of oneself (Rom. 12:3).
It does not mean to be “poor spirited” and have no backbone at all! “Poor in spirit” is the opposite of the world’s attitudes of self-praise and self- assertion.
It is not a false humility that says, “I am not worth anything, I can’t do anything!”
Being poor in spirit doesn’t mean to have low self-esteem.
It doesn’t mean to walk around having some kind of inferiority complex.
Jesus didn’t die for junk. God didn’t make trash in his own image.
You are infinitely valuable to God because you’re made in his image, and Jesus died on that cross redeeming you with his precious blood.
You weren’t paid for by silly stuff like silver and gold.
It is honesty with ourselves: we know ourselves, accept ourselves, and try to be ourselves to the glory of God.
The first step to happiness….be humble.
Verse 3: “Happy are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”
It simply means to depend on God. It means to be humble. It means admitting daily, I don’t have it altogether, because you don’t.
It means admitting that I haven’t arrived, that I’ve got more to learn, that God didn’t build the universe to revolve around me.
I think maybe the best way to get a picture of what being poor in Spirit is, is to tell you what the opposite is. It is the opposite of being arrogant. It’s the opposite of being prideful and egotistical. Jesus says if you’re full of pride, if you’re full of ego and arrogance, you’re never going to be really happy.
But the more you depend upon the God and the more that you’re humble, the more you open the door to happiness.
Humility and happiness are twins. They go together, you can’t have one without the other. If you want genuine happiness, you start by humbling yourself before God.
People who want to live for God must be ready to say and do what seems strange to the world. Christians must be willing to give when others take, to love when others hate, to help when others abuse.
By putting aside our selfish interests so that we can serve others, we will one day receive everything God has in store for us.
To find hope and joy, the deepest form of happiness, we must follow Jesus no matter what the cost.
Three ways that humility will bring you happiness:
- humility will bring you happiness by reducing your stress.
Jesus talks about this principle later in his Sermon on the Mount in the section about worry that begins in Matthew 6:25, where he basically says, why do you fret about over what you’re going to eat, what you’re going to wear, and how long you’re going to live, and how many hairs you have?
He says, why do you worry about all that when you’ve got a God who’s bigger than everything you can worry about?
Humility accepts the fact that things aren’t ideal, and yet I can still be happy because I’m depending upon an ideal God. He’s going to make everything all right. It’s not perfect until we get to heaven, but he’s going to make it all right. Humility re duces my stress because I don’t have to take myself that seriously.
Do you know what I think one of the biggest problems in the world is? This is my opinion, but I think one of the biggest problems in the world is that we take ourselves too seriously, and we don’t take God seriously enough. I think that’s the crux of the human problem.
We’re out there trying to do it all, impress people with who we are, and because we know who we really are underneath, there’s all this stress. But when I walk humbly, dependent upon God, the stress goes down and happiness goes up. That will make you happy.
- Here’s the second way humility will make you happy, it will improve your relationships.
How many of you love to be around big-headed, egotistical people? How many of you love to do that? How many of you wake up on a Monday morning and say, “Man, I hope I can take an irritating, conceited jerk out to lunch today?”
You know the fact is, prideful people are a pain to be around. Somebody says that pride is the only human disease that makes everybody else sick.
I mean egotists are irritating, and they wreck relationships. Why? Because self-centered people are never happy. And because they aren’t happy when they come into a relationship, they tend to drag everybody in that relationship down.
On the other hand, how many of you like to be around humble people? Don’t you just love that. Because they’re always lifting you up. Don’t you love to be around somebody who when you tell a little story, they don’t have to top it?
When you are humble, you get along better with others, not because you think less of yourself, but because you’re thinking more about others. And this is a key to good, happy social living.
When you become more interested in others, you become more interesting to others.
So you have better relationships when you’re humble. You’re not afraid to say, “Hey, I’m sorry. I messed up, I didn’t mean to. Forgive me, I’ll do better.”
If you walk humbly before the Lord, you’re almost immune to insults. It doesn’t mean that you don’t accept criticism, it’s just that you don’t take it so personally that you get all upset. Humility will improve your relationships. It will make you happy.
- This is the best of all. How am I happy through humility? Humility unleashes God’s power. This is the best one. It’s humility that unleashes God’s power.
The Bible says the secret of spiritual power is to walk humbly before God. Let me read to you about three verses. Isaiah 66:2, God says through Isaiah, “This is the one I esteem: he who is humble and contrite in spirit, and trembles at my word.”
James 4:6: “God opposes the proud, but he gives grace to the humble.”
James 4:10, James says, “Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and he will lift you up.”
I want to tell you this morning that if you are not humble before God, you’re cutting the cord through which he’s going to channel all of his power.
If you’re not humble, your prayers are not answered. Is anybody going through a barren period with your prayer life? Check your humility before God.
The man didn’t leave justified because he was full of arrogance. But that old publican who committed every sin in the book, he followed beatitude number one, and he was poor in spirit, and he said, “Lord, please be merciful to me, I’m a sinner.” And God said, “He walked out of there with his sins washed away.”
The secret of strength is admitting weakness. Paul said in 2 Corinthians 12:9, “Therefore I boast all the more gladly in my weakness so that Christ’s power may rest on me.”