The Wealthy Poor

“Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 5:3). From an earthly standpoint, “the wealthy poor” is clearly a contradiction in terms. From a spiritual perspective, however, there’s a certain type of poverty that is actually true abundance. As Jesus said in the verse quoted above, those who are poor in spirit are the happy or blessed ones. In that sense, then, those who are poor in spirit are, in fact, quite wealthy.

The word “spirit” is used in regard to mankind in a variety of ways in God’s Word. Jesus said, “God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth.” (John 4:24). In this context, the latter “spirit” refers to the proper attitude that must be mingled with adherence to God’s truth in order for acceptable worship to be offered to the Lord. Paul exhorted young Timothy, “Let no man despise thy youth; but be thou an example of the believers in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith, in purity.” (I Timothy 4:12). Here Paul encouraged Timothy to, among other things, be exemplary in his attitude so that he might influence others for Christ. Both of these passages portray admirable attitudes which a child of God must exhibit profusely. In Matthew 5:3, however, Jesus commended a poverty of spirit. It’s obvious that He was not telling us to be poor in the attitudes just referenced. Instead, the poverty of spirit in this passage has to do with one’s emptying self of self-will. J. W. McGarvey wrote regarding this verse in his book, The Fourfold Gospel, “The poor in spirit are those who feel a deep sense of spiritual destitution and comprehend their nothingness before God.” In essence, poverty of spirit is the opposite of pride. Its necessity is seen in that those who are poor in spirit are those who shall inherit the kingdom of heaven. Jesus reiterated this point in Matthew 18. The disciples had come to the Lord to ask who was the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. “And Jesus called a little child unto him, and set him in the midst of them, and said, Verily I say unto you, Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter the kingdom of heaven. Whosoever therefore shall humble himself as this little child, the same is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 18:2-4).

Being poor in spirit involves rooting out one’s worldly desires and replacing them with spiritual priorities. Read Paul’s contrast between the works of the flesh and the fruit of the spirit in Galatians 5:19-25 and you will see that self-will and God’s will cannot co-exist in the human heart. There’s just not enough room. The child of God must continually strive to fill himself or herself with a love for and devotion to God. As this is done, self-will decreases. The heart begins to pump more fervently with heavenly purpose rather than worldly pleasure. The soul becomes more fit for the kingdom into which he or she has been called through the hearing of the Gospel (II Thessalonians 2:14). Self-will becomes a lowly beggar, pleading for even the tiniest corner of a person’s life while God’s will rules and dominates both thoughts and actions.

In what sense does this poverty of spirit actually make one wealthy? The poor in spirit are wealthy in the sense that they learn that the true value of life is serving God (Ecclesiastes 12:13) and serving mankind (Matthew 20:26-28). The wealthiest of carnal misers would pay any amount of money to learn life’s real value, yet those who are poor in spirit grasp the concept and keep getting richer with every step they take toward a more complete emptying their hearts of their worldly wills. The poor in spirit are wealthy in the sense that they know that the peace that passes all understanding (Philippians 4:7) is found in putting hearts and minds on heavenly goals. Can we begin to count the number of men and women who have thought that earthly wealth and fame would bring contentment? While these have searched far and near for inner peace, those who are spiritually poor in spirit are enjoying the abundant wealth of serenity in the Lord. The poor in spirit are also wealthy in the sense that “theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” Earthly kingdoms reward the materially wealthy and the powerful. Earthly kingdoms have passed away, are passing away and will continue to pass away. The kingdom of Jesus Christ, however, cannot be moved (Hebrews 12:28). The poor in spirit belong to this kingdom by virtue of their humbling themselves and obeying the Gospel (Colossians 1:13).

The world has its definitions of wealth and poverty. God has His as well. Strive to be poor (in spirit) so that you can be wealthy (eternally).

Michael Gifford
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