Blessed are the poor in spirit, For theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
We all want to be happy, in fact it is part of the American ethos to pursue it so much so that the constitution of the United States of America attempts to secure it. Jon Courson, one of my favorite Bible teachers and expositors, once said that the sermon on the mount is the constitution of the kingdom of heaven. What Jesus frames as the constitution of His kingdom is so contra-culture, so subtly radical, that it should literally bring us all to repentance. The main idea of this constitution is found between verses 3 and 11, and each one will teach us how to find a true attitude of happiness. As we examine these next 8 verses we will begin to see how we can finally obtain the pursuit of happiness.
The word blessed is μακάριος (makarios) in Greek and it means “happy”. Jesus opens his mouth and begins to teach His disciples on how they can have an attitude of happiness. Christians should be known for being happy, if they are following the way of their master. After all our God is a God of joy, and the fruit of the spirit includes joy. In commenting on this type of happiness that following the teacher’s instructions brings Barclay states;
“Makarios then describes that joy which has its secret within itself, that joy which is serene and untouchable, and self-contained, that joy which is completely independent of all the chances and changes of life.”
The path of happiness that Jesus wants to set his disciples on is a path of joy that allows us to be happy, despite outward circumstances being unfavorable. The very first step to being a happy disciple of Jesus Christ, although against modern psychological theory, is to be poor in spirit. To be poor in spirit means to realize that spiritually you are bankrupt. It is akin to humility– to realizing that you are in need of God’s righteousness to be truly spiritually rich. This is where we must begin with God in the first place, so we shouldn’t be surprised that it is the first lesson that Jesus instructs His disciples in. To become a disciple and follower of Jesus you must first admit that you are a sinner, that you are in spiritual poverty in need of the richness of God’s grace. This is so against our culture, which will teach us to be self-confident, to have self-esteem, self-this, or self-that. The world says if you can have this self-whatever then you can finally be happy. Jesus says you must realize how you have nothing in and of yourself, that you are poor in spirit. This takes humility. Only once we humble ourselves and declare our spiritual poverty can we be granted access to the kingdom of heaven. That is why the kingdom of heaven belongs to the poor in spirit, to the spiritually bankrupt, since in their plea for mercy and grace God has granted them spiritual riches beyond comprehension through the redeeming work of His Son, Jesus Christ, by his sacrificial death on the cross– paying in full our spiritual poverty.
By humility and the fear of the LORD Are riches and honor and life. –Proverbs 22:4
So, do you want to be happy? You must first be poor in spirit, then you will have all the joy and riches that come with being a part of the kingdom of heaven.