Jesus said, "Blessed are the poor in Spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven" (Matthew 5:3). The general and immediate context is that of the kingdom of heaven. Both John the Immerser and Jesus begin their respective ministries teaching that the kingdom of heaven was at hand (Matthew 3:2; 4:17). Twice in the first ten verses of the Sermon on the Mount Jesus refers to the kingdom of heaven. The sermon on the Mount (Matthew chapters 5-7) is sometimes referred to as the Constitution of the Kingdom or the Manifesto of the King. The traits described in the beatitudes may well describe the desired character of the citizens of this Kingdom.
This first virtue may be first because it is the soil of all other virtues. It is self that most often gets in the way of developing the spiritual principals of God within ourselves. So Jesus begins where He must, when He says, "Blessed are the poor in spirit (or ego)......" Until empty of self we cannot be filled with God. Someone has said, "If a ladder is to be of any use the first step must be near the ground". This is where we must begin. It is the opposite of self righteousness. It brings us to the admission that we are dependent on God. The poor in spirit have removed the hardened self and are like clay that molds easily in the hand of the master potter, who shapes such individuals into vessels ready to receive His blessings.
Jesus brought new insights. New ways of looking at things. He did this when He said, "Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven". It's not the familiar quip - 'the rich get richer', but He is actually telling us that the poor in spirit get richer. Why? - because to them belong the kingdom of heaven. On one occasion Jesus said, "the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant seeking fine pearls, and upon finding once pearl of great price, he went and sold all that he had, and bought it" (Matthew 13:45-46). Misplaced values place a high priority on material things and lowly esteem things of a spiritual nature. We can do no better than to begin where Jesus tells us to begin.
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