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In the beatitudes, Jesus gives us the key to eternal life. He teaches and enjoins a set of attitudes which are very much contrary to the ones common man possesses. However, in order to be spiritually successful, these beatitudes must be adopted and practiced. The first beatitude states, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matt. 5:3). Notice that the rewards given for each beatitude differs one from another. The only exception is the first and the last. This is a stylistic device known as an inclusion. The idea is that each of the beatitudes is rewarded with, “The kingdom of heaven.” But, who are the poor in spirit? Is it those who are financially bankrupt? Certainly not! Jesus is speaking here of those who realize their true spiritual condition without God and Christ. Jesus is placing a blessing upon those who realize that they are spiritually bankrupt! The first beatitude requires that one see the error of his way. He must realize that he is a sinner, groping in darkness, without hope in this world or the next. He must be willing to swallow his pride and admit that he needs forgiveness. Many, even among religious people, do not realize this. Jesus told a story about a Pharisee and a tax collector (Publican) (Lk. 18:9-14). The Pharisee had the gall to approach God as a braggart. He basically told God, “Aren’t you glad that such a wonderful, righteous person like myself belongs to you?” If fact, his words were, “God, I thank you that I am not like other men-extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this tax collector,” He then began to brag on himself, “I fast twice a week, I give tithes of all that I possess.” He had no clue what “poor in spirit” meant. He was a braggart, one who felt no need for the expressive love of God, or the cleansing blood of Christ. He could never come to God and receive forgiveness of sins unless he first realized that he had sins to be forgiven! The tax collector, on the other hand, saw his sinful condition and realized that he desperately needed forgiveness. In fact, he saw the grossness of his sin so clearly that he was ashamed to even look up into heaven when he addressed the Creator of the universe. Here was a man who was perfectly illustrating to us what the Lord meant by “poor in spirit.” He, “standing afar off, would not so much as raise his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me a sinner!’” And guess what, he went down justified! Because he met the needs of the first beatitude. He was poor in spirit. Do you see the need for the Lord in your life? Do you realize the sin in your life and does it make you ashamed of yourself? When you do sin, do you feel that it will be canceled out by all of the good that you usually do? We must realize, every time we sin, that we have become spiritually bankrupt, and have a great, dire, need to beg God for His forgiveness. Be poor in spirit!
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