“And seeing the multitudes, he went up into a mountain: and when he was set, his disciples came unto him: and he opened his mouth, and taught them, saying, Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted” (Matthew 5:1-4).
Through the Sermon on the Mount, the Son of God is showing us the way to Heaven, the true way of life everlasting, and all the paths that lead to destruction. Every word He speaks is for our eternal good, for it is the Father’s will for His children to be blessed.
Blessed are the Poor in Spirit
In the fifth chapter of Matthew the Lord lays out eight particulars which when applied guard against false religion. The very foundation of these particulars is Poverty of Spirit … “Blessed are the poor in spirit.” This is not poverty on the materialistic level; instead Christ is speaking in terms of disposition of heart. This foundation is the first step to real joy, contentment and happiness in this life and in the next.
“Poor in spirit” does not refer to those who love poverty or who fear riches. This has always been the false notion of heretical religionists. They think that such voluntary or self-imposed poverty brings God’s grace to the soul, and is a large step to the Kingdom of God. Yes, Paul does tell us that “the love of money is the root of all evil” (1 Timothy 6:10), but it is not the sole root, nor does his teaching carry the same application as being “poor in spirit.” Poverty is not the remedy for covetousness or the love of money, for the poorest man can still lust after this world’s goods. The phrase “poor in spirit” is found on the same branch as “purity of heart.”
Who then are the poor in spirit? Surely it is they who know what they really are! They acknowledge themselves to be “wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked” without Christ (Revelation 3:17). They know that they have a bias towards the flesh, deserve God’s wrath, and so often grieve His Holy Spirit. They realise that there is nothing they can give in exchange for their souls (Matthew 16:26), meaning that no amount of good deeds will ever merit eternal life. There is the awareness that it is impossible to obey God without the abiding presence of the Holy Spirit.
There is no human virtue in self-imposed humility. Some are proud of their humility. The Lord’s expression is quite a different kind of humility, for it speaks of total helplessness. In Romans chapter one, the apostle Paul makes it clear that the whole world is found to be guilty before God, and that only those who come to Him as helpless sinners may receive justification, forgiveness and salvation.
True Christianity begins where heathen morality ends. Poverty of spirit, conviction of sin, denial of self, and having Christ’s imputed righteousness instead of our own is the fruit of pure religion. Followers of false religion have no understanding of these things. Pagan religion has always sought to establish its own righteousness through good works, but not so with Biblical Christianity.
Those who are poor in spirit have the Kingdom of Heaven opened up to them already, for they have the “unsearchable riches of Christ” (Ephesians 3:8). They have “peace with God” (Romans 5:1, see also Philippians 4:19) and “joy in the Holy Ghost” (Romans 14:17). One day they will be crowned with the “crown of righteousness” (2 Timothy 4:8). This all comes by exercising faith in Christ and His finished work on Calvary. They are His faithful students and have learned of Him to be “lowly of heart” (Matthew 11:29). They may be poor in spirit, but they are indeed prosperous in the Kingdom of God.
Blessed are they that mourn
This sorrow is not the result of self-inflicted trouble, nor does it come from the loss of worldly fortunes. Some have afflicted their souls and have made a religious experience out of it, but the mourners spoken of by Christ are they who deeply yearn after God. These cry out to Him with words that cannot be expressed. They desire a deeper knowledge of God, and a fuller life in the Spirit.
Though they may endure physical sorrow in this world, they do not let it turn them from the true way, nor do they allow miserable comforters to coax them into giving up their faith in God. They are comforted by the Lord, and are blessed in their heart despite the discomfort of the flesh. The Saviour comforts them by giving them the “full assurance of faith” (Hebrews 10:22) which swallows up all doubt and tormenting fear. They are fully persuaded that nothing can separate them from the love of Christ (Romans 8:35-39).
This mourning will cease when it is lost in holy joy as we enter into the Kingdom of Heaven … “Weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning” (Psalm 30:5). While we await such blessedness in Heaven, there are those who reject Christ and doom themselves to the eternal miseries of Hell. This indeed brings a deep seriousness upon our spirits, a seriousness which is increased as we see the lost careering towards the bottomless pit, never to be seen again. The true meaning of ‘poverty of spirit’ and ‘mourning’ is foolishness to the world and false religion. The believer will always be considered as a fanatic and a lunatic to those who are lost in sin, yet we know that they stand on the very edge of destruction. It is our responsibility to warn them.
Those who “mourn in Zion” (Isaiah 61:3) must not allow themselves to be moved away from their faith in God, yes, even when we see the multitudes plummeting into Hell. Remember, we walk in spiritual reality rather than vain shadows. One day the “poor in spirit” and those who “mourn” will experience their Lord wiping away every tear from their eyes (Isaiah 25:8; Revelation 7:7:17, 21:4). Though a period of poverty and mourning may have to be endured in this life, the Lord will “give unto them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness” (Isaiah 61:3). One day we will enjoy the blessedness and riches of Christ in His eternal Kingdom.
21 June 1740.