Key Verse: “Blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” Matthew 5:3
The crowd listening to Jesus that day was made up of all kinds of people, including those who were very religious. These people were working hard to prove their goodness and their religious superiority. They were self-righteous, defining their religion by who they were and what they did. Today, we think of these kind of people as being “full of themselves.” Jesus, however, taught that we need to be empty of self. To be poor in spirit is to recognize that I have no righteousness in who I am and what I do, but only in Jesus.
This kind of teaching was foreign to the religious crowd because they thought that the Messiah was coming to establish His Kingdom on Earth and that they would have a prestigious place in that kingdom as a reward for all they had done. But in this opening statement, Jesus tells them that the Kingdom of Heaven belongs to those who are empty of the spirit of self. You see, there’s no room for self-righteousness when we’re filled with His righteousness.
Jesus was teaching His followers to do exactly what He did when He came to Earth; He emptied Himself of His position, His possessions, and His power in order to submit to the will of His Father and to fulfill that will. Likewise, when we submit our will to His will, we become teachable, available, useful, and fruitful citizens in the Kingdom of Heaven. Being empty of self is a blessing because it allows us to be full of Jesus.