“BLESSED ARE THE POOR IN SPIRIT, FOR THERIS IS THE KINGDOM OF HEAVEN.” – JESUS (MATTHEW 5:3)
HUMILITY IS THE MASTER KEY THAT UNLOCKS EVERY DOOR IN GOD’S KINGDOM.
The first blessing that Christ reveals is also the most important of all eight; it is the gateway into all the other. This entry-way principal governs everything that God longs to give to you. Without understanding and applying this truth regularly in our lives, it is virtually impossible to truly experience the blessed life as God would give it.
First of all, let us note that when Jesus said, “Blessed are the poor in spirit,” He did not assert some kind of universal blessing on material poverty. That is a grossly erroneous interpretation that cannot stand the scrutiny of the entirety of Scriptures, let alone the simple reading of this verse. Jesus said the Kingdom of God belonged to those who possess a poverty of spirit. If natural poverty were the equivalent of the Kingdom of God, Bangladesh, Ethiopia, and other oppressed regions of the world would be places of incredible blessing. They are not. Poverty is not a blessing; it is a curse. Just ask the poor. Only in the fanciful imaginations of prosperous western philosophies and religious heresy is poverty an exalted position.
Now, natural poverty can often be a precursor to the blessing of poverty of spirit. Many times our needs help us to properly restore our priorities and seek God in our lives. But I must say that I have also dealt with many lives in natural poverty that did not possess any poverty of spirit but were prideful and rebellious. Let it be said that anyone, rich or poor, black or white, young or old, can have the attitude of poverty of spirit. I can’t do it by myself; I need God in my life and I can’t live without Him.
If Jesus was not speaking of physical poverty, what did He mean when He said, “poor in spirit”? That the first promise of blessing would be conveyed through the negative is instructive and illustrating. We are not naturally creatures of internal poverty. Instead, we as human beings possess a strong self-will and determination. As the once popular, now deceased, singer Frank Sinatra sang, “I did it my way.” We all like living our lives “our way” with as little interference as possible. This, though, presents the obvious difficulties of overcoming the controlling influence of our own heart that is rarely ready and willing to surrender entirely to God.
The theme of this powerful, life-transforming promise is the heart surrendered at will. Why do we insist on our independence from such a loving God that only needs our surrendered will to send the rescue of His grace into the neediness of our lives? Ultimately it is our powerful self-determination to live our lives absent an abiding poverty of spirit–a constant recognition of our need for God–that keeps us from experiencing the blessing of God.
Modern secular psychiatry, which for the most part has declared war on religion, especially Christianity, frequently belittles those who possess a poverty of spirit, declaring they use religion as a “crutch.” But if that be case, call me a cripple. My next breath comes from God. This I acknowledge and unashamedly declare.
Americans are a very religious people. Demographics studies consistently show that 90% of the people in our country acknowledge a belief in God. Let us, though, clearly distinguish between the acknowledgement of God and the acknowledgement of a personal need for Him. Many acknowledge God, but Jesus said in order to enter the Kingdom and live in His blessing, we also must acknowledge our desperate need for Him. Oh, the great liberation to the burdened soul when we finally realize that we are entirely unable to carry the great burdens and fight the great struggles of our life without the help of a loving God. This surrender brings great joy and peace. Our struggles and striving can forever be replaced with trusting and abiding in His presence.
Are you there yet? Have you come to the great realization of your absolute need for God? The gloriously gleaming castle of God’s everlasting Kingdom has but one way in. The mighty drawbridge opens to all who have come to the end of themselves and now can call out to the God who hears the cry of the humble. Sometimes we needlessly struggle with this essential truth as if we really can do anything without God.
The Bible expresses this attitude in the word “humility.” The book of James says that He gives more grace. Therefore He says: “God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” Therefore submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you…Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and He will lift you up. (James 4:6 -7, 10) Also I Peter 5:5 -6 reads: God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble. Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time.
Humility is extremely important to God but mostly resisted by people. Yet access into His Kingdom requires genuine humility. Salvation is for all mankind, but it requires the awareness and admission of sin. Such acknowledgement is a manifestation of humility, of poverty of spirit. Is the reward of this act of humility worthwhile? Of course everlasting life in God’s heaven is available for all but will only be experienced by those who humbly acknowledge their sinful state and welcome His forgiving grace.
It becomes undeniably apparent that upon a truthful understanding of our condition in light as God’s person, we should be bound to an unceasing humility of heart. But we often live blinded to such a realization by an instinctive reluctance to in any way admit weakness. We run from humble attitudes or action because we feel they might diminish us to others or even to ourselves. We treat humility as a weakness that should be overcome while all along it is our greatest asset and strength.
The magnificent Kingdom of God belongs to the humble. All the provisions and promises of this glorious kingdom can only be appropriated through a genuine expression of personal humility. If we bow our hearts down to our God, He will lift us up when the right time comes. We have nothing for which to be prideful. If you are gifted with intelligence, did not that gift come from God? If you possess physical beauty, who is it that made you? If you are athletic, musical, or creative, was it not God who gave you that ability? If you have wealth, can you not see that God gave it to you? Our very lives come from God. Your next breath is given to you by God. What do we really have to be prideful about? If we achieve accomplishments that others may recognize and praise, did we not do so because of God’s grace and allowance? In truth, we have much to be humbled by and very little for which to be prideful.
We don’t have to wait until our experience teaches us about our human frailty. Don’t wait until your marriage or health or something else collapses before you discover the great freedom of humility. This is what the Master says to us about the great reward of humility in Matthew 18:3-4:
…and said, “Assuredly, I say to you, unless you are converted and become as little children, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven. 4 Therefore whoever humbles himself as this little child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.”
What do little children commonly exhibit that is so worthy of notice that Jesus Himself exalts its irreplaceable value to all mankind? Humility! Little children are teachable, thirsty for knowledge. They are trusting and loving. They have not yet become so full of themselves that being humble is impossible. They recognize their dependence on adults and can easily be disciplined.
Unfortunately, yet relatively often, church people fall into the trap of pridefulness connected to a false sense of self-righteousness. Jesus dealt with such attitudes in the parable of the tax collector and the Pharisee in Luke 18:9-14:
Also He spoke this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others:“Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, ‘God, I thank You that I am not like other men—extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I possess.’ And the tax collector, standing afar off, would not so much as raise his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me a sinner!’ I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”
We as the children of God must avoid at all costs the trap the Pharisee fell into. The genuine revelation of our righteousness through Jesus Christ will always produce a great praise and deep humility. He has given us His righteousness as a free, unearned gift of grace. (Rom. 5:17; 2 Cor. 5:21 ) How can we not be eternally grateful for such a wondrous gift? How can we not also be deeply humbled that God Himself would remove our sins and impart righteousness into our lives?
But self-righteousness is an entirely different thing. It is based on the grossly erroneous supposition that our importance to God is based on our superiority over people more sinful than we. It says, “Because I live better than I perceive others do, I [wrongly] expect to have a more important place in God’s heart.” Christians have no business becoming critical, judgmental, and condemning of others. Counter-wise, we should be the most kind, compassionate, forgiving, and non-judgmental people the world has ever seen.
A few years ago, my wife and I had the great privilege of visiting Israel for the first time. During our time there we were able to go to the town of Christ’s birth, Bethlehem. There a beautiful Church of the Nativity has been built at the site where many think that Christ was born. At the entrance of this holy site there is only a small door, so low that every person has to bend over in order to enter the church (the only exception being small children). The only way into the beautiful church was this “door of humility.” The only way into God’s glorious Kingdom is through the door of humility. As we bow our heart before our God, He graciously opens the door and invites us into His glorious Kingdom.
Prayer for Humility
Father God, I humble myself before You today. I acknowledge my great and desperate need for You in every part of my life. Without You, I can do nothing. I submit all of my life into Your complete control and will. I worship and praise You for all of the blessings You’ve given my life. Every good thing in my life comes from You and I thank You for all You’ve done. My life is Yours. Thank You for my salvation in the precious blood of Jesus Christ. In Jesus name, Amen.