Sermon on the Mount Part 1: Spiritual Poverty

Think about these question: What kind of things make you happy? Similarly, what does it take to make you happy? For the next few lessons, we are going to be looking at the Sermon on the Mount, sometimes referred to as the Christian Manifesto or God’s Guide to Life. The three chapters (Matthew 5-7) that constitute this sermon contain a wealth of information, and this is a beneficial place to come to when we need to center or focus on what we should be as Christians.

Blessed Are the Poor in Spirit

This lesson begins with what we call the Beatitudes. “Blessed are…” begins several verses here, and this carries an idea of happiness with it. It is a bestowment of divine favor, and the “pursuit of happiness” is one of the tenets our own country is based on.

These keys to being blessed are centered around characteristics, though, not possessions or circumstances. In fact, many of these are in absolute contrast to what we would define as being blessed. Jesus is addressing a fundamental truth that happiness is determined by internal factors – character and heart – much more than by external factors – circumstance and materials. Return to our opening questions: What does it take to make you happy? Putting our contentment in worldly circumstances and objects will cause us to behave in ways that are not Christ-like.

Matthew 5:3 really sums up all the Beatitudes: “Blessed are the poor inspirit.” Meekness, mourning, hunger and thirst for righteousness, mercifulness, purity, peacefulness, and being persecuted or reproached all tie back to this first verse of the Beatitudes. In this context, the word “poor” here has an idea of someone who has no earthly resources, totally dependent on others, and this is the state we are to be in in terms of our spirituality – He is speaking of spiritual poverty. This speaks to the characteristic of humility.

  • Humility gives me proper view of myself. In Proverbs 16:5, pride is condemned as an abomination before God. Yes, there are things in this life we can take pride in, but humility keeps us from inflating ourselves. We can see ourselves as others see us and as God sees us.
  • Humility gives me a proper view of Jesus. It helps me emulate Jesus (Philippians 2:5-9). He emptied Himself and took on the traits of a servant. He was obedient, and He did all these things to help others come to God.
  • Humility gives me a proper view of God. I Peter 5:6 tells us to humble ourselves before God, so he may exult us when He has purposed. (Refer back to Philippians 2:9.)

Application: How Do I Develop Spiritual Poverty?

We have to recognize our spiritual helplessness. We are saved by grace (Ephesians 2:8-9), and our salvation is not in ourselves. We cannot place our trust in ourselves, our peers, or even spiritual leaders when it comes to our spirituality. Our total trust has to be in God, and we have to recognize that Heaven is not something we can earn. In Philippians 3:4, Paul begins to discuss the confidence he should be able to have in his upbringing, background, and actions. However, he concludes that all of these are worthless compared to the confidence he draws from God. (Also, consider the parable of the Pharisee and the tax collector and how their actions/justification contrast.)


At the end of the day, we need to remember that we are all the same – beggars in need of God’s forgiveness. When the world is so physical, and material, it can be difficult to focus on what we should as Christians.  If we can remember to empty ourselves of pride and the priorities of this world, we can approach the cross in humility and allow God to fill our spiritual poverty.

lesson by Tim Smelser