he went up on the mountain, and after he sat down, his disciples came to him.
Matthew 5:1, NASB.
In Matthew 5:1–14 we find Jesus’ earliest teaching on the transforming process through which our Father grows disciples. This teaching is commonly known as the Beatitudes because the Latin word for blessing is beatus. The Beatitudes, the opening section of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, are a pronouncement of blessing upon those who seek him. But Jesus’ words also challenged the very core of Judaism, the traditional religion of his day.
Jesus’ followers had only recently responded to his call to follow. They had watched his first miracles and had seen the crowds run to him, yet they were spiritual newborns in many ways. They were people like us trying to find the way to real meaning in life. Now Jesus gathered them to teach the life-process through which God grows us to spiritual maturity. This process mirrors 1 Peter 2:2 (HCSB): “Like newborn infants, desire the unadulterated spiritual milk, so that you may grow by it in your salvation.” The reward for submitting to God’s parenting is being blessed by him. Blessing includes happiness but goes deeper. Blessedness comes from knowing God’s peace and presence at the deepest level. True disciples live a lifestyle of worship and are blessed with an unshakable awareness of our Father’s presence, even in the hardest times.
He opened his mouth and began to teach them, saying:
“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”
Matthew 5:2–3, NASB
God created us for eternal significance, but we are born into this world with nothing except what he has given. We have nothing to offer our Heavenly Father that did not first come from him. But “God is love” (1 John 4:8, HCSB). Despite our poverty of spirit, he is a perfect parent and loves us to the fullest extent possible. Nothing we can do can earn more love since he loves us completely already. Yet we are born into this world with a sinful nature leading us to believe we are the center of the universe. A newborn demands instant gratification. A spiritual baby thinks everything should revolve around him or her. To take our first step to God, we must confess that we are spiritually impoverished.
We must not dare think that God’s process for growing disciples is a self-help program. It is far more radical than that. This first step means death to our sinful pride. Poor in spirit is not a state of depression but a place where our self-reliance is broken. Being broken by God hurts, but it is a hurt that leads to being re-made in our Father’s image. We must clearly see our sin through God’s eyes and repent of that sin. There is no way around it. Repentance is not just being sorry, it is being sorry enough to die to self and quit the sin. This first step came at the greatest cost to God—he gave his Son. God took your debt and paid it forever at the cross. And because of that, the kingdom of heaven is yours if you come to Christ as Savior. — Mark Powers