What comes to your mind when you hear the word “poor”? Homeless? Moneyless? No jacket or socks to keep the chill off your skin? Sure not the meaning that comes from Matthew 5:3.
In the Old Testament, the word poor was used for the Israelites when they were sent out into the wilderness. They had refused to trust that God would deliver a nation of giants to them and gift them with the giants’ rich land, even though it was the land God had promised their forefathers.
In Hebrew, the word poor is “ani”, which is translated as afflicted or destitute of worldly (physical) goods. If you’re poor then you have absolutely no power.
In New Testament Greek, the word poor is “penes”, which comes from the word “ponos”, or pain and anguish. So when Jesus tells us that the kingdom of God belongs to the poor in spirit, He is talking about people who are suffering and in pain.
Being poor in spirit is the root of the beatitudes; it’s the attitude that all the other beatitudes are built on. The principle of spiritual poverty is humility: to be aware of our sinfulness and our need for God’s mercy. As human, we should know that we cannot escape our sins. We try to do good. We help people when we see trouble. We try to tell the truth and we try to live righteous lives. But we fail every time. No matter how perfect we become we are still in a spiritual debt that we can never repay.
But then something amazing happened: Jesus was rich, but He became poor for our sakes. He was born into a poor family. His parents gave two turtle doves for Him when He was born (Luke 2:22-24). This is the sacrifice reserved for the poor. Jesus was later supported by the women who He had healed as He went and preached (Luke 8:2-3). He also took the food that he ate from wild trees in the streets (Mark 11:12-14).
The truth is, Jesus gave up his rich life to live a life that would eventually turn so many people against him that they placed him on a cross. He became our sacrificial lamb. He bought us so that we can reach the kingdom of heaven with His perfection.
God doesn’t despise the person who is broken spirited. All we have to do is ask Him for strength.