Poor in spirit

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"Blessed [are] the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven." Matthew 5:3

The poor in spirit are not the same as the poor.

The word we see as poor is ptochos[1] from root ptoeo or pipto, a beggar, one who is destitute, a pauper and is related to the idea that someone has "fallen down" so that they have become afflicted or destitute.

It can be translated beggar or beggarly. To be poor in spirit is someone who is a beggar in the sense they know they need help and are willing to ask for that help.

That is a common theme in the teachings of Jesus Christ.

Matthew 21:22 And all things, whatsoever ye shall ask in prayer, believing, ye shall receive.
John 16:24 Hitherto have ye asked nothing in my name: ask, and ye shall receive, that your joy may be full.

James 4:1 From whence come wars and fightings among you? come they not hence, even of your lusts that war in your members? 2 Ye lust, and have not: ye kill, and desire to have, and cannot obtain: ye fight and war, yet ye have not, because ye ask not. 3 Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss, that ye may consume it upon your lusts. 4 Ye adulterers and adulteresses, know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God. 5 Do ye think that the scripture saith in vain, The spirit that dwelleth in us lusteth to envy? 6 But he giveth more grace. Wherefore he saith, God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble.

1 John 3:22 And whatsoever we ask, we receive of him, because we keep his commandments, and do those things that are pleasing in his sight.

To be poor in spirit would be the antithesis of the entitlement mind set.

But there is another place we see this reference to the poor that is blessed by God. But to understand the reference in context you must look at who is being spoken to and why they are singled out for this blessing. In Luke 6:20 Jesus is talking specifically to His disciples "And he lifted up his eyes on his disciples, and said, Blessed [be ye] poor: for yours is the kingdom of God."

Jesus had already made a number of requirements for his disciples.[2] including what might be called a "vow of poverty".[3]

While Jesus likely knew Greek it is well accepted the sermon on the mount was given in Aramaic. The Aramaic idiom Miskaneh can be used to describe someone "who voluntarily gives up all material things for a spiritual benefit". Or in other words becoming materially poor to become spiritually rich.

As bond servants of Christ and servants of His Kingdom of God they had the beggarly spirit that Christ would bless and had forsaken all that that they had.

Was Jesus rich? Jesus was said to be rich by Paul but gave up his wealth to be minister to the people.[4]

The poor in spirit would be ‘miskaneh brooh’ in Aramaic which would represent a figure of speech meaning “not prideful” or the reverse of “wantonness”.

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Footnotes

  1. 4434 ~πτωχός~ ptochos \@pto-khos’\@ from ~πτωσσω~ ptosso (to crouch, akin to 4422 and the alternate of 4098); adj AV-poor 30, beggar 2, poor man 1, beggarly 1; 34
    1) reduced to beggary, begging, asking alms
    2) destitute of wealth, influence, position, honour
    2a) lowly, afflicted, destitute of the Christian virtues and eternal riches
    2b) helpless, powerless to accomplish an end
    2c) poor, needy
    3) lacking in anything
    3a) as respects their spirit
    3a1) destitute of wealth of learning and intellectual culture which the schools afford (men of this class most readily give themselves up to Christ’s teaching and proved themselves fitted to lay hold of the heavenly treasure) For Synonyms see entry 5870
  2. Luke 14:26 If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple. Luke 14:27 And whosoever doth not bear his cross, and come after me, cannot be my disciple.
  3. Luke 14:33 So likewise, whosoever he be of you that forsaketh not all that he hath, he cannot be my disciple.
  4. 2 Corinthians 8:9 For ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that, though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, that ye through his poverty might be rich.


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