Poor in Spirit


If you abide in Me and My word abides in you, then you shall know the truth, and the truth shall set you free.

Last week we announced that the next several weeks would be devoted to a discussion of the Beattitudes—or attitudes of being. Just about all Christians are familiar with the Beattitudes, but do we really understand what they mean? What was Jesus trying to teach us with these. Today, we start with the first one.

Matthew 5:3 says, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” What does Jesus mean by this? What is poor in spirit?

When I was a kid, I thought this meant financial poverty. I thought Jesus was saying the kingdom of heaven belonged only to poor folks. How poor did one have to be to fit this? My family certainly wasn’t rich, but were we poor? Compared to most of the world, no. We had food on the table and clothes to wear and two cars. Did this mean we couldn’t attain the kingdom of heaven?

Wait a minute. It doesn’t say “Blessed are the poor” or “Blessed are those who don’t have any money.” It says “poor in spirit.” Okay, what does that mean?

The opposite of poor in spirit would be haughty in spirit. Puffed up and full of oneself. Poor in spirit here must mean of humble spirit. Okay, this is beginning to make some sense. We know Jesus hated a proud or haughty spirit.

What are we really talking about here? A person with a proud or haughty spirit would be an unteachable person. If I’m all swelled up with pride and think I’m better than you, I’m not likely to learn anything from you. Why would I think you could teach me anything if I think I know more about it than you do?

So “poor in spirit” in this context actually means teachable. Blessed are the teachable.

In the introduction last week, I made the statement that the Beattitudes are progressive in nature, meaning that I must possess one—it must be a part of my character—before I can hope to develop the next one.

What could be more fundamental than being teachable? If I’m going to learn anything at all, I have to be teachable as a precondition to that learning. I can only learn what I’m willing to be taught. If I’m unwilling to be taught, the best teacher in the world will fail in any effort to teach me.

Teachableness is the foundation to all Christian growth. None of us are born with any understanding of Christianity. I can only grow as a Christian as I submit myself to being taught.

It was not an accident that Jesus put this as the first of the Beattitudes. It is foundational to all the others. It’s only as we become teachable—not reluctantly listening, but avid to learn—that we can begin to grow as Christians.

Next week, we’ll discuss “those who mourn.” Until then, have a wonderful week, and may God bless you and your loved ones richly.

Do you thirst for the kingdom of God and His righteousness? Do you have a teachable spirit that wants to learn more and more of God’s truth?


clip_image005David N. Walker is a Christian father and grandfather, a grounded pilot and a near-scratch golfer who had to give up the game because of shoulder problems. A graduate of Duke University, he spent 42 years as a health insurance agent. Most of that career was spent in Texas, but for a few years he traveled many other states. He started writing about 20 years ago, and has six unpublished novels to use as primers on how NOT to write fiction. He is currently putting the finishing touches on his non-fiction Web Wisdom: Inspiration from the Inbox and starting his new fiction work—a series of novellas set during the period from 1860 to 1880.

Contact me at davwalktx@yahoo.com or tweet me at @davidnwalkertx


About David N. Walker

David N. Walker is a Christian husband, father and grandfather, a grounded pilot and a near-scratch golfer who had to give up the game because of shoulder problems. A graduate of Duke University, he spent 42 years in the health insurance industry, during which time he traveled much of the United States. He started writing about 20 years ago and has been a member and leader in several writers' groups. Christianity 101: The Simplified Christian Life, the devotional Heaven Sent and the novella series, Fancy, are now available in paperback and in Kindle and Nook formats, as well as through Smashwords and Kobo. See information about both of these by clicking "Books" above.
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15 Responses to Poor in Spirit

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  5. Marji Laine says:

    I’ve never thought about the Beattitudes as being progressive. But it makes complete sense that someone would have to be teachable before being able to add any other virtues to their character. Thanks so much for this!

    So enjoyed meeting you on Saturday! Hope your week is amazingly blessed!


  6. Beautiful. Love how you made the connections with the meaning!


  7. Love the Beatitudes. Ahhhh…big sigh…thanks for the post. It makes me think. God is awesome to keep us humble and poor in spirit. May we all be more like Him!


  8. Barbara Estinson says:

    May we remain teachable.


  9. You make an excellent point, David. Now that you’ve opened our eyes to the importance of being teachable, it’s easy to see how everything else hinges on this frame of mind.


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