20 examples of what it means to be poor in spirit

Jesus began the well-known Sermon on the Mount with “Blessed are the poor in spirit …” Here is an insight into what that means.

What does it mean to be poor in spirit? (Matthew 5:3)

“And seeing the multitudes, He went up on a mountain, and when He was seated His disciples came to Him. Then He opened His mouth and taught them, saying: ‘Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.’” Matthew 5:1-3.

Being poor in spirit must be very important and valuable, if it means taking possession of the kingdom of heaven itself!

How can we know if we are poor in spirit? Here are some characteristics of someone who is poor in spirit:

  1. Always lowly in his own eyes. He does not exalt himself; he is not proud. Even though he may be considered insignificant by others, he sees it all as God’s will and rejoices that he is allowed to share in the sufferings of Christ. It becomes natural for him to go the way of the Lamb; humiliation becomes his nourishment, exaltation his reward. (1 Peter 5:5; 1 Peter 4:13; 1 Peter 5:6)

  2. Loves to do all his work in the hidden and does not receive honor from men. (Matthew 6:1-4)

  3. Loves to occupy the lowest place, not because he desires to be more esteemed, but because he thinks that this is precisely the place that it is suitable for him. (Luke 14:7-11; Philippians 2:3)

  4. Reserved in his conduct – neither aggressive nor demanding.

  5. Loves to give up his advantages for the benefit of others. (Philippians 2:4)

  6. Does not seek to be anything great, whether it is on an earthly or a spiritual level; his only desire is to do God’s will from moment to moment.

  7. Does not seek to gain influence with people, yet his entire longing is that people might come under the influence of God. (1 Corinthians 2:1-5; 1 Corinthians 9:19-23)

  8. Time is precious to him – he has none to waste; yet he is calm and is never led to do anything in haste. (Ephesians 5:16-17)

  9. Sanctifies himself so that others, by his example, can sanctify themselves in truth. (John 17:19; 1 Timothy 4:16)

  10. Denies himself so that his life may not be an offense to others in any way. (Matthew 16:24)

  11. Satisfied with the cross God gives him to bear, and he does not complain when others bother him.

  12. Does not draw back in the sufferings of Christ, so that after he himself has been tested, he can be of help to others. (Romans 8:18; 2 Corinthians 1:3-5)

  13. Just as happy wherever God puts him – whether it is among the teeming masses or in a solitary place – because he meets God in each place by doing His will.

  14. Places great value on the fact that wherever he is or has been, others should find only the truth, be it in spiritual or in earthly things.

  15. His love compels him to contribute to the others’ good; he feels that he is indebted to everyone. His life evolves as the life of a servant, and he is more than willing to bear the others’ burdens.

  16. Never dreams about great things, but rather takes heed to the small things. No work is insignificant, and no one is too small to be served.

  17. He does not discriminate and is a servant to all. Therefore, he goes just as willingly to where sorrow prevails as to where joy is overflowing. (Mark 9:35; 1 Corinthians 9:19-23; Romans 12:15-16)

  18. Lives his life for the purpose of laying it down as a sacrifice. (Mark 10:45; John 15:12-13)

  19. Willingly steps on thorns if only he can refresh the others in their sufferings by doing so. (2 Corinthians 1:3-6; Colossians 1:24)

  20. His ear is open to God’s voice, not just to enjoy it in self-satisfaction, but in order to do what he has heard. (James 1:22)

Poverty in spirit is really something to strive after – “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven!”

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Scripture taken from the New King James Version®, unless otherwise specified. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.