Become Rich by Being Poor

August 14, 2013 — 6 Comments


There are two realities competing against each other in all of our lives. The first is the reality of the business of life where the spiritually blind are convinced the important things are taken care of. The second reality is the deeper spiritual one, the one that gives meaning to the first. This deeper reality is the foundation on which the abundant life is built. It is the true filter with which to process and prioritize the business of life. Take a few moments to press into the deeper reality. Give the Lord all thoughts and concerns that this day may hold and ask Him to meet you in a profound way in during your quite time.

Blessed are the poor in spirit, For theirs is the kingdom of heaven. But woe to you who are rich, For you have received your consolation. (Matthew 5:3 & Luke 6:24)

Jesus is contrasting two ways of being—Poor or Rich. Each one receives something and must also forego something. For those that choose to be rich, they receive what they, in their own effort, can accumulate whether it be praise, honor, status, power, luxury, etc. However, in order to possess the delights of the prosperous the rich forfeit the kingdom of God. They cannot enter it in the after life nor can they experience it in their present life. They sacrifice much to gain little; they abandon true riches in search of fool’s gold.

Those that choose to be Poor, on the other hand, are the rich ones. They not only enter the kingdom of God but they live in it, not as hired servants but as princes, as rightful heirs of the kingdom. It is the jewel of poverty—those that think themselves rich are utterly poor and those that think themselves poor are truly rich.[1]

However, poverty comes with a substantial cost. To better understand the cost associated with being poor in spirit, it is helpful to understand a little Greek. There are two different words in Greek used for the poor. The first one refers to those who are able to provide the bare minimum requirements for sustaining their lives.[2] The modern equivalent would be a single mother working a part time minimum wage job, sleeping in her car, living from paycheck to paycheck. She has enough money to feed herself and her kids and to buy gas to get to work but nothing else. The word describes people that can provide for themselves but are unable to rise above the poverty line. This is not the word Jesus uses.

When referring to the poor in spirit, Jesus uses the second Greek word which refers to those that are so poor they are unable even to provide what is needed to survive.[3] They have no job, no car, and no paycheck. This type of poor is so destitute that the only way to sustain their lives is by begging. The modern equivalent would be a homeless man who lives on the street, his sole possessions are the clothes he is wearing, and does not eat unless someone takes pity on him and feeds him.

The characteristic that distinguishes the type of poor Jesus referred to in this beatitude is neediness. He is not talking about the economically disadvantaged but those who are so impoverished, so utterly destitute that they are in need of charity to sustain their lives.[4] He uses the same word when he describes the beggar in the parable of the rich man and Lazarus. “There was a certain rich man who was clothed in purple and fine linen and fared sumptuously every day. But there was a certain beggar named Lazarus, full of sores, who was laid at his gate, desiring to be fed with the crumbs which fell from the rich man’s table. Moreover the dogs came and licked his sores.” (Luke 16:19-21).

When Jesus refers to those that are poor in spirit, He is not referring to those that are poor in God’s opinion, because in God’s estimation everyone is poor. No, Jesus is referring to those who are poor in their own eyes.[5]Here lies the substantial cost of being poor in spirit. To be poor means to abandon any inner thoughts of self-sufficiency. The one who is poor is nothing in their own eyes; they realize that “I have nothing, am nothing, and can do nothing, and have need of all things.” [6] They recognize that their proper place is face down in the dust before the Lord. They see their true state as being “wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked” (Revelation 3:17).

The great cost is our pride. To be poor in spirit is to pour contempt on all pride because the door to the kingdom of God is small and only those who get low can enter it. We have to give up our self-importance, self-reliance, and self-sufficiency. We must abandon any attitudes that conflict with the position of absolute and utter neediness. Spurgeon notes, “It is worthy of double mention that this first blessing is given rather to the absence than to the presence of praiseworthy qualities; it is a blessing, not upon the man who is distinguished for this virtue or remarkable for that excellence, but upon him whose chief characteristic is that he confesses his own sad deficiencies.”[7]

Why must we see ourselves as so needy? Because, until we are emptied of self we cannot be filled with God; we cannot be clothed in righteousness until we are stripped of our filthy rags. The reality is that the life of Christ will never be precious enough to seek after until we are poor in spirit and without acknowledging our great need we will be forced to stand outside the kingdom watching others enter and experience it wondering why we are missing the blessings of God.

Personal Application

Being poor in spirit is more than an attitude of humility. Humility has come to mean “not thinking too highly of yourself” but that fails to convey the full import of poor in spirit. Humility is the beginning of becoming poor in spirit, but poorness moves far beyond the conventional bounds of humility. Being poor in spirit requires total destitution; an inability to be self-sustaining; complete and utter neediness; it is a total dependence on God to meet the basic requirements for life.

The poor in spirit realize that they and others are completely inadequate to meet their own needs. They come to the unavoidable conclusion that I am nothing, I have nothing, and I can do nothing and those around me are in the same state as I am. It is a resignation to look only to God to satisfy your great neediness. It is a dependency on God for every aspect of your existence. It does not hesitate to proclaim “I am spiritually dependent, emotionally dependent, mentally dependent, and physically dependent on God”.

The reality is that we cannot even take a breath without God’s assistance. Job tells us that without God sustaining us “all flesh would perish together, and man would return to dust” (Job 34:15). So, if we are incapable of doing something as simple as breathing without God’s help what makes us think that we can do anything else on our own? We don’t have the power to do the simplest of things. Our true state is 100% neediness. Without God we literally are nothing but dust.

Most believers would agree that we are dependent on God. However, there is a difference between an intellectual belief and an effectual belief. It is the difference between knowing a truth and living a truth. Just because we know we our need does not mean that we embraced being poor in spirit. So, the question we need to ask ourselves is, “Does my day to day life reflect my neediness or do I live a self-sufficient life?”

Spend some time in quite reflection as you engage God by answering the following questions:

  • What areas of my life do I live as though I am not 100% dependent of God? (Examples: Finances, Relationships, Emotional wellbeing, Mental activities, Physical body)
  • How do I live as a rich person in those areas (being self-sufficient)?
  • How can I begin to turn those areas over to Him?

Remind yourself of your neediness—let your last prayer at night and your first one in the morning be a confession to God of your total dependence on him in every area of your life.

[1] Spurgeon, Charles H., The Beatitudes

[2] The Pulpit Commentary: St. Matthew Vol. I, ed. H. D. M. Spence-Jones (Bellingham, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 2004), 147.

[3] The Pulpit Commentary: St. Matthew Vol. I, ed. H. D. M. Spence-Jones (Bellingham, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 2004), 147.

[4] John Nolland, The Gospel of Matthew : A Commentary on the Greek Text (Grand Rapids, Mich.; Carlisle: W.B. Eerdmans; Paternoster Press, 2005), 198.

[5] The Pulpit Commentary: St. Matthew Vol. I, ed. H. D. M. Spence-Jones (Bellingham, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 2004), 147.

[6] Pink, Arthur W., The Beatitudes

[7] Spurgeon, Charles H., The Beatitudes

[8] Willard, Dallas. The Divine Conspiracy (HarperCollins  2009).

6 responses to Become Rich by Being Poor


    Amen!!! Much soul searching needed!


    Great word! I have been studying the beatitudes and what it really means to the poor in spirit. This was right on time Scott! Blessings!

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