Jesus Christ gave us the Eight Beatitudes in the Sermon on the Mount, recorded for all posterity in the Gospel of Matthew. Matthew’s Gospel was directed to an audience steeped in Hebrew tradition. The Gospel of Matthew stressed that Jesus is the Christ or Messiah foretold in Hebrew Scripture, our Old Testament, and that the Kingdom of the Lord is the Kingdom of God in Heaven. Jesus offers us a way of life that promises eternity in the Kingdom of Heaven.
The first Beatitude speaks to both how Jesus came to this earth in personhood, and the example He gave us to present ourselves. “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” (Matt. 5:3)
“Poor in spirit” means to be humble. Humility is the realization that all your gifts and blessings come from the grace of God. To have poverty of spirit means to be completely empty and open to the Word of God. This blessing and reward clashes with worldly values of pride and personal independence. The Lord is clear when He says, “These are the ones I look on with favor: those who are humble and contrite in spirit, and who tremble at my word.” (Is. 66:2)
When we empty ourselves of pride, we are humble, and at the end of ourselves, recognizing that we need to “rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead” (2 Cor. 1:9). Humility brings an openness and an inner peace, allowing one to do the will of God, instead of being chained to the devil’s ways, which are prideful. “Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall. It is better to be of a lowly spirit with the poor than to divide the spoil with the proud.” (Prov. 16:18-19)
When we humble ourselves, we accept our weaknesses and our need for salvation, and allow the grace of God to lead us to conversion. “For thus says the high and exalted One Who lives forever, whose name is Holy, ‘I dwell on a high and holy place, and also with the contrite and lowly of spirit in order to revive the spirit of the lowly and to revive the heart of the contrite.’” (Is. 57:15)
It is pride, the opposite of humility, that brings misery. For pride brings anger and the seeking of revenge, especially when one is offended. If every man were humble and poor in spirit, there would be no war!
How do we become “poor in spirit”? “Submit therefore to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Be miserable and mourn and weep; let your laughter be turned into mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves in the presence of the Lord, and He will exalt you.” (James 4:7-10)
When we empty out our prideful spirit to make room for the Lord, we are promised to belong to the kingdom of heaven. “Listen, my beloved brothers, has not God chosen those who are poor in the world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom, which He has promised to those who love Him?” (James 2:5).