What is the meaning of "poor in spirit" in Matthew 5:3

  • Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. - KJV Matthew 5:3

    How can the "poor in spirit" get the kingdom of heaven? Is there a similar usage else where?

    I bet many of Jesus' audience at the time had just the same questions!

    As an aside, this is normally understood to be a Matthean addition considering the more plain reading in Luke's parallel. However, the point still stands.

    This is the link to my discussion about this verse on B-Greek: https://www.ibiblio.org/bgreek/forum/viewtopic.php?f=46&;t=157#p582

  • Mike

    Mike Correct answer

    8 years ago

    Poor in spirit means that you feel you have no moral riches and are in need.  You feel you need 'spiritual' life. 'Poor' (πτωχός) used in this verse means 'reduced to being a beggar'.  This makes sense and we can confirm its meaning by comparing other statements of Jesus, for he often said the same things in many ways.

    One good match that seems to bring light to the phrase is:

    When the teachers of the law who were Pharisees saw him eating with the sinners and tax collectors, they asked his disciples: “Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?” On hearing this, Jesus said to them, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” (NIV Mark 2:16-17)

    Those who feel they are sinful or 'morally sick' and so cry out to Jesus to be saved, are 'poor in spirit' thus they are the ones and only ones that inherit God's kingdom. Those who are self righteous are morally confidant and rich, these Jesus can not save.

    This makes sense that Jesus would make this the first attitude of a Christian because it is by being poor in spirit or 'reduced to being a beggar'. That you actually 'begin' the Christian life with this explains why it is the first be-attitude. It also fits and explains the second attitude of mourning which is the other side of the same coin. It naturally follows for a Christian once recognizing his poverty due to sin, he will mourn on account of it.  

    God will make happy, or 'bless' such people with inexpressible spiritual riches and joy. This is the core message of the gospel.

    I am not sure that the core message of the gospel is to bring happiness.

    @libertas: We have to be careful about the way it's phrased, but John Piper makes a strong case for that position. Welcome to _Biblical Hermeneutics_, by the way.

    @JonEricson Thanks for the welcome, I think that happiness is something that can come and go on this earth, joy of course is a fruit of the Spirit. But the *core* message of the gospel, that is, the ultimate cosmic purpose, is the marriage of Christ and the Church after the destruction of earth, happiness will be there for sure, but it's far from the main point.

    @libertas: If you'd like to continue this conversation, let's do it in The Library. (I don't mean to cut the discussion off, but it's getting off-topic. ;-)

    @JonEricson agreed, I'll drop by sometime soon :)

    @libertas - By the way you took my words a little too literally - in a court of law I would probably say 'a core' not 'the core', 'or approaching the core' - Of course Christ himself is 'the core' and all our happines depends on his glory in it, and our faith in him - but recognizing this is being 'poor in spirit'. Cheers.

    @Mike I figured as much, and good point, prior to rebirth all are spiritually dead.

License under CC-BY-SA with attribution


Content dated before 6/26/2020 9:53 AM