H. P. Wotton
“Blessed are the poor in spirit: for their’s is the kingdom of heaven”.
I. A Comparison
Though poverty of spirit is a God-given seal that the happy recipient is heir to a heavenly inheritance, the unregenerate mind fails to see a token of blessing in any state of poverty, for it is able to equate blessedness only with riches of one kind or another, whether it be that of material wealth, intellectual capacity, or personal attractiveness.
The reason why some people say they can accept the sermon on the mount rather than the doctrines of the gospel is because they have never seen how opposed the reasoning of this sermon is to their own thoughts. They have only to try to equate poverty with blessedness to realize that this is so. The language of this beatitude Â— as that of the others Â— is the language of a kingdom of which the carnal mind knows nothing.
The unregenerate mind may imagine itself to have a treasure of personal righteousness sufficient to please God; but how different is this from the poor in spirit, whose eyes are opened to see that in him dwells no good thing, and that in and of himself he is unable to perform one spiritual act, or think one spiritual thought.
II. An Authoritative Statement
It is a comforting thought for the poor in spirit that He who made this statement regarding the blessedness of their condition had the highest authority for doing so; for He who made the creatures – and particularly man in His own image-has complete knowledge of the
intricate nature of man’s being; and so He alone is able to know when he is in a condition that can be pronounced blessed.
Of course, people everywhere receive from God the benefit of temporal blessings, but these, though excellent in themselves, are not to be compared with the beatitude blessings that belong only to the spiritual kingdom of God’s new creation, and have eternal significance.
An important reason why the Lord Jesus was able to pronounce blessedness on the condition of poverty of spirit is that He knew that proud, self-sufficient man did not come into the world with this spirit. He knew that this blessed thing came into being because of the convicting and converting work of the Holy Spirit in the life of the redeemed sinner, emptying him of his self-sufficiency and self-righteousness.
III. An Unrecognized Condition
The church at Laodicea did not recognize its condition before God, for temporal riches have the tendency to blind us to spiritual facts. The apostle John’s message to it from the risen Lord was:
“Because thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked: I counsel thee to buy of me gold tried in the fire, that thou mayest be rich; and white raiment, that thou mayest be clothed, and that the shame of thy nakedness do not appear; and anoint thine eyes with eyesalve, that thou mayest see”. (Rev. 3. 17, 18).
Poor people! Had they known that they were wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked, they would have been in the right state of mind to seek what they were really in need of.
Poverty of spirit is a hidden state of blessedness. The worldling does not see it; and were he to do so, he would, because of his carnal nature, look on it as he does on every other item of spiritual riches, that is, with the utmost contempt. Even the poor in spirit themselves are not always aware of their own blessedness, for it is not easy to see the key to the kingdom in our own spiritual poverty, and in our need of Christ’s righteousness to cover our nakedness.
IV. A Work of God
Poverty of spirit is the result of the axe being laid to the root of the tree of self-righteousness. It is the effect of a God-given faith at work in the happy recipient to whom it is given. By revealing to man something of the glory of the things of God, faith exposes the nothingness of man apart from God. The believer is made to see that just as few years ago he had no being at all, so the being he now has, is nothing apart from the upholding power of God, for it is in Him that we live, and move, and have our being, both physically and spiritually.
Waiting on God is a good indication that he who does so is blessed with poverty of spirit, for none wait upon God but those who believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of them who diligently seek Him. None truly wait upon God but those who see that their sufficiency is of Him and not of themselves, and that it is God who works in them both to will and to do His good pleasure.
Poverty of spirit is necessarily a hidden work of God because of its natural humility. Like love, it vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up. It does not parade itself to be seen of men, but it is much at home with God. It is not eloquent, for it has little to say for itself; and it is so spiritually illiterate that it scarcely knows how to put two words together, but it is a strong plea, and a key to the kingdom of heaven.
V. Poverty of spirit is an Earnest of the Inheritance
It may asked. How can this be? for surely there is no poverty of spirit in heaven. The answer is that poverty of spirit and humility resemble each other so closely that it is difficult to tell one from the other, and there is a great deal of humility in heaven. The distinguishing mark of the person who does not possess poverty of spirit is his attitude of independence of God, but there is no independence of God in heaven. All the inhabitants of that land of bliss recognize their Creator-creature relationship, for they cease not to ascribe glory to Him who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb for ever and ever.
A reliable dictionary defines the word earnest as we are using it as ‘money paid as instalment to confirm a contract; foretaste’. The first definition is a picture of the grace of poverty of spirit brought about by the work of the Holy Spirit in the hearts of the children of God. Poverty of spirit is a part of the child of God’s spending money, to be used by him as he travels the road to his inheritance. It is a confirmation of his interest in the contract made between the Father and the Son that the great multitude of people given by the Father to the Son should be saved by the work of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit with an everlasting salvation. Poverty of spirit is also a foretaste of a lamb-like Christian humility that will stand the test of a glorious eternity.
VI. Present Blessing and Possession
The first-born son of a king is the natural inheritor of his father’s throne because of his birth into the royal family before his brothers. Whether he has brothers or not, he is still the heir, and when he enters into his inheritance the other members of the family continue to enjoy the royal privileges, and some advance one step nearer the throne themselves.
Our elder Brother is the first-born among many brethren, and He has now entered into His inheritance. But because He is up there and we are down here, He is not unmindful of His brethren who are not yet exalted to the place where He is. But for their comfort He has left them many words of encouragement, including the beatitude we are now considering, for in it He is giving them to understand that the future possession is theirs by royal seal. This seal is poverty of spirit, for, says the King, ‘Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven’.
What He is saying is that this kingdom is the possession of the poor in spirit here and now. By reason of the new birth, they have been translated out of Satan’s kingdom of darkness into Christ’s kingdom of light. The kingdom of God is within them. By reason of
the new birth they are even now sons and daughters of the living God and joint heirs with their elder Brother to an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away.
VII. The Entrance into the Inheritance
‘Then shall the King say unto them on His right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me Drink: I was a stranger, and ye took Me in. . . ‘ (Matt. 25. 34, 35). They had done unto their brethren what they had done for Christ’s sake.
There is a sense in the spiritual realm, in which none can feed the hungry but those who have been hungry themselves; none can give drink to those who are thirsty but those who have themselves thirsted for the living waters. None can understand the stranger but those who have been strangers themselves. All these things indicate the character of the poor in spirit, who will enter into their inheritance, where they will hunger and thirst no more, and cease to be strangers in a strange land.
The inheritance of the poor in spirit is not only in the present and in the future, but its origin is way back in eternity, before the foundation of the world. ‘Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world’ will be the words of the Lord Jesus to His elect people on the day of judgment. I do not take this to mean that the kingdom has been completely prepared for the people of God from the foundation of the world, but rather that every stage in the preparation of the kingdom has been in the purposes of God, for those who shall inherit it. Jesus said to His disciples, ‘I go to prepare a place for you’. (John 14.2). A prepared place is for a prepared people, and without poverty of spirit we are without important evidence that we are among those upon whom God has set this seal of assurance.