What Kind of People Are the Poor in Spirit (Matthew 5:3)?
By Mei Juan
In one of my daily devotions, I read that the Lord Jesus said, “Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:3). I put down the Bible and began to contemplate this, “The Lord likes and blesses the poor in spirit, and theirs is the kingdom of heaven. But what kind of people are the poor in spirit? Are the poor in spirit those who appear on the outside to be humble, gentle, and loving to others?” I contemplated this for quite a while, but found no light, and I thought about it into the afternoon, when I just happened to have a meeting, where I could discuss and explore this question with my brothers and sisters.
Are the Poor in Spirit Those Who Appear on the Outside to Be Humble, Gentle, and Loving to Others?
At the meeting, I raised my question, and after listening to me, Brother Fang answered, “We can’t determine which kind of people are poor in spirit based on whether they appear on the outside to be humble, gentle, and loving to others. Instead, we have to look at how they treat God and what their attitude toward the truth is. That’s the correct way to evaluate this question. Some people appear on the outside to be humble, gentle, and loving to others, but inside they are arrogant, self-important, and cannot obey the truth. When God’s work doesn’t fit with such people’s notions, they not only have no interest in seeking the truth, but they uphold their own views, and reject, oppose, or even condemn and resist God’s work out of their own arrogance. No matter how humble such people may be, they are not poor in spirit. They are just like the Pharisees at the time, who often interpreted the Scriptures for the common people, often deliberately stood in the synagogues or the in streets to recite long prayers, did charitable deeds and good works in the streets and externally appeared to be very humble, gentle, and loving of others. But, when the Lord Jesus came to work, they did not seek the truth at all, and instead, relying on their own notions and imaginings, they claimed that the Lord Jesus was not Christ because He was not called the Messiah. They also limited God’s work to the Old Testament, and condemned the Lord Jesus’ words and work as exceeding the Old Testament, thereby denying the Lord Jesus’ work and words. Not only that, the Pharisees did not recognize the Lord Jesus as the appearance of God. They claimed that the Lord Jesus was just an ordinary person, saying, ‘Is not this the carpenter’s son? is not His mother called Mary?’ (Matthew 13:55), etc. The Pharisees saw that the Lord Jesus’ words had authority and power, and they saw that the Lord Jesus had performed many miraculous signs and wonders, but they did not humbly seek, and instead were especially arrogant, unable to obey the truth, and they stubbornly clung to their own notions, became false witnesses, fabricated rumors, and wildly condemned and blasphemed the Lord Jesus. Finally, in collusion with the Roman government, they had the merciful Lord Jesus crucified on the cross, thereby committing an unspeakable sin, and were punished by God! This shows us that no matter how a person may appear on the outside to be humble, gentle, and loving of others, if he has no real obedience of God and the truth, he is absolutely not someone who is poor in spirit. He is instead someone who is hypocritical. His humility is false, and his love for others is a disguise. It is entirely deceptive, duplicitous, and intended to fool others in order to win their admiration and high opinion. Such people appear on the outside to be humble, patient, and loving, but their hearts are full of deceit, sinister, and vicious, and their essence is that of a hypocrite!”
After hearing Brother Fang’s fellowship, I understood that it is not right to determine which kind of people are poor in spirit based only on whether they appear on the outside to be humble, gentle, and that the most important is how they treat God and what their attitude toward the truth is. The Pharisees, who appeared to be humble and gentle, and did some good deeds, but who, when the Lord Jesus came to work, not only did not humbly seek, but also stuck to their own notions and imaginings, wildly resisted and condemned the Lord Jesus, and nailed the Lord Jesus to the cross. How could they be called people poor in spirit? They were clearly arrogant, self-important, and enemies of God!
What a Person Who Is Poor in Spirit Is, and the Expressions of People Who Are Poor in Spirit
Then, Brother Fang continued, “Some people have arrogant dispositions, but are able to obey the truth, and when God’s work doesn’t conform to their notions, they are able to put themselves aside, seek humbly, and accept and obey the truth as soon as they understand it. Such people are truly poor in spirit, and are also humble. As is recorded in the Bible about Nathanael, when Philip tried to testify the Lord Jesus to him, relying on his own notions and imaginings, Nathanael said, ‘Can there any good thing come out of Nazareth?’ But when the Lord Jesus, referring to him, said, ‘Behold an Israelite indeed, in whom is no guile!’ Nathaniel asked Jesus, ‘From where know You me?’ Jesus replied, ‘Before that Philip called you, when you were under the fig tree, I saw you.’ Nathanael said, ‘Rabbi, You are the Son of God; You are the King of Israel’ (see John 1:45–49). We can see that although Nathanael had notions of the Lord Jesus at the beginning, because he believed that the Messiah should not have been born in Nazareth, he did not hold to himself, but instead humbly sought and listened carefully to the words of the Lord Jesus. When he heard the Lord Jesus say He saw Nathanael praying under the fig tree, he felt that the Lord was omnipotent and all-knowing, that the Lord Jesus could examine his heart and soul, and that the Lord Jesus was unlike ordinary people, so Nathanael put down his own notions, acknowledged that the Lord Jesus was the prophesied Messiah, accepted the Lord Jesus, and received the Lord’s salvation.”
Brother Zhan nodded and said, “Yes, people like Nathanael, who treated God and His work with an attitude of seeking humbly, and who was able to accept and obey the words of the Lord Jesus, are people who are poor in spirit! I am also reminded of the story of the Ethiopian eunuch accepting the gospel of the Lord Jesus. In the Bible it says, ‘And the eunuch answered Philip, and said, I pray you, of whom speaks the prophet this? of himself, or of some other man? Then Philip opened his mouth, and began at the same scripture, and preached to him Jesus. And as they went on their way, they came to a certain water: and the eunuch said, See, here is water; what does hinder me to be baptized? And Philip said, If you believe with all your heart, you may. And he answered and said, I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God’ (Acts 8:34–37). Although the Ethiopian eunuch had power and status, he wasn’t affected at all by these things. As he was returning home after worshiping in Jerusalem, he met Philip, and he didn’t think his position or knowledge of the Scriptures made him superior, nor was he arrogant or self-important. Instead, he modestly sought with a humble attitude, and after hearing Philip preach the story of the Lord Jesus, he believed that the Lord Jesus was the Christ, and happily accepted Jesus as his Savior. People like this are the ones who are poor in spirit!”
I agreed very much with the fellowship of Brother Fang and Brother Zhan, and I said, “So, those poor in spirit are not stubborn people. They are able to approach things that originate in God with an attitude of humble seeking regardless of whether it fits with their notions, and once they understand the truth are able to let go of their own notions and accept and obey God’s work. Such people are pure and honest, and have hearts that yearn for the truth. God loves people like this. Thanks be to the Lord! I finally understand now that the poor in spirit are not those who appear on the outside to be humble and gentle, but most importantly are those with hearts that fear God, who humbly seek in all things, who obey the truth, and do not arbitrarily delimit God’s work.”
Sister Yang went on to say, “Yes, the poor in spirit have hearts that fear God, and no matter whether God’s work fits with their human notions, they are able to let go of themselves and seek humbly. This is truly being poor in spirit, and only such people as this are qualified to enter the kingdom of heaven. Those who are humble in appearance but arrogant and unaccepting of the truth in essence, once God’s work does not conform to their notions, begin to judge, resist, and condemn, aren’t able to humbly seek and investigate at all, ultimately are loathed and detested by God. Such people have no part or share at all in the kingdom of heaven.”
After I heard the fellowship of my brothers and sisters, I suddenly remembered something said by Jehovah in the Bible, “for Jehovah sees not as man sees; for man looks on the outward appearance, but Jehovah looks on the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7), so I continued, saying, “When we look at people, we only see their exterior appearance, but God sees people’s hearts, their essence. In the past, I lacked discernment, and when I saw that someone appeared to do good deeds and be gentle and kind, I thought they were humble, but thinking about it now, I see that notion is absurd!”
Brother Fang said, “Amen! It’s thanks to the Lord’s enlightenment and guidance that we’ve gained this understanding today. Now, if we look at the Lord Jesus’ statement, ‘Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven,’ we understand even more clearly. We are already in the last stage of the last days, which is the crucial time to welcome the Lord’s return. Now it is even more important that we are able to be poor in spirit, seek humbly in all things, and accept and obey the truth, so that we can delight the Lord and welcome the Lord’s return. Remember that the Lord Jesus said, ‘I have yet many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. However, when He, the Spirit of truth, is come, He will guide you into all truth: for He shall not speak of Himself; but whatever He shall hear, that shall He speak: and He will show you things to come’ (John 16:12–13). And, in Revelation 3:20, He prophesied, ‘Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear My voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with Me.’ In Revelation 2:7, He also prophesied, ‘He that has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.’ From these verses of Scripture, we can see that when the Lord returns in the last days, He will speak more, and that He will tell us all truths and mysteries. When we hear that a particular church testifies that the Lord has returned and is speaking, or when a person testifies that the Lord has returned, we should let go of our own notions and humbly seek to see if these words provide for our spiritual needs, resolve our practical problems, and point out a path of practice. When we determine that this is the voice of God and an expression of the truth, we should accept the truth and obey God’s work. In this way, we can be sure of welcoming the Lord’s return. Otherwise, without an attitude of humbly seeking, if we reject and refuse to seek or investigate anything not in accord with our notions, we run the risk of walking the Pharisees’ path of resisting God, and we will lose our opportunity to welcome the Lord’s return, which would be a very tragic thing!”
I said approvingly, “Amen! As long as we are people who are poor in spirit, who can humbly seek the truth, and can accept and obey when we determine that what we hear is God’s voice and the expression of the truth, then we are truly wise! I hope to be someone who can humbly seek, listen for the voice of God, and welcome the Lord’s appearance!”
“Thanks be to God!”
“Today’s fellowship is wonderful! It really comes from the enlightenment and guidance of the Holy Spirit!”