Be poor in spirit
‘Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.’ Matthew 5:3
SUGGESTED FURTHER READING: Luke 5:1–11
To be poor in spirit is to be humble, to know ourselves, and to judge ourselves to be what we are. There would be no excellency in this poverty of spirit if it was not founded in truth and suited to our circumstances. It is such a temper of mind as becomes a sinner under a dispensation of mercy and grace. When we hear a rich man talk of his wealth, furniture and servants, we are not surprised or offended, but if a beggar who has neither food, raiment or dwelling, should affect an air of importance and talk at the same rate, we should think him mad. No less an impropriety is it for one of fallen Adam’s race to fancy that he has any wisdom, strength or goodness of his own. Yet thus we all dream by nature. Vain man would be wise. Sinful man labours to establish his own righteousness. He knows not that he is poor and miserable and blind and naked, but is trusting and boasting in a power which he has not. When we are awakened from this dream by the Spirit of God, we become poor in spirit, or humble—truly so in a measure, but imperfectly at the best. Now there are three discoveries made to the soul, which strip us of our fancied riches and attainments and make us poor. Those who know the most of these are the most advanced in poverty of the spirit:
(i) a humbling sense of the sinfulness of our hearts. When this is known it causes as sudden a change of thought as it would if a man should unexpectedly find he had the plague upon him. How little then would he think of all his possessions! So the convicted sinner.
(ii) a humbling sight of the majesty of God. How greatly did this affect Job and Isaiah (chapter 6). But especially,
(iii) a humbler taste of his love. A manifestation of God reconciled in Christ humbles the soul to purpose. Without a hope of this sort, the former would lead to despair. But when this hope arises to a strong, well-grounded persuasion, when the Lord shines upon the soul, then there is true poverty of spirit.
FOR MEDITATION: O that my failings might at least teach me humility, and convince me more effectually how frail I am. Diary, 22 January 1755
SERMON: MATTHEW 5:3 [2/3]