The Beatitudes

Mar 15, 2021

The Sermon on the Mount is an insightful summary of Jesus’s teachings in the Gospels. And, to me, the Beatitudes show what the teachings lead us to—complete devotion to God. So this 8-week series will focus on each of the Beatitudes and relevant passages in the rest of the Sermon. I would group the Beatitudes as follows. The first three Beatitudes show the completion of moving from our attachment to the world to our attunement to Jesus Christ: the poor in spirit, the mourners and the meek. The heart of the Beatitudes is in the 4th Beatitude: those who hunger and thirst for righteousness. Then the 5th and 6th, the merciful and the pure in heart show the very real effects of Christ’s teachings on our lives. The 7th, the peacemakers, are sowing the word of God in all they do and say. And the 8th, those who are persecuted, are oblivious to any difficulty arising in their ministry, so attuned to the spirit of God are they and totally enabled in that ministry by God.


Today I am writing about the first Beatitude, Blessed are the poor in spirit. What does it mean to be poor in spirit? First, it means that we have seen our own poverty and recognized that God has a plan for us that is way more fulfilling than what the world would have us go after. Second, it is about beginning to detach from all that we have been taught and to learn to listen for what God, through the Holy Spirit, is saying directly to each of us. Then, of course, we are to be obedient to that “still, small voice” of 1 Kings 19:12. That means that we have to have stepped back from our own mind’s preoccupations so that we can observe what our thoughts are insisting on without getting emotionally involved in what the mind is proposing. The mind is full of fear and self-protection, judgment and competition, all worldly concerns.


Third, the poor in spirit are dependent on God to take care of them, give them directions and purpose in their lives and to love and forgive them. Author Jacques Philippe wrote in The Eight Doors of the Beatitudes that the shell has to crack for expanded growth. That shell is everything that we hold onto that doesn’t come from God.


The idea of the Beatitudes as a ladder with each rung being dependent on the previous ones comes from Jim Forest in The Ladder of the Beatitudes. As we entertain this idea, we can see that this first rung, the poor in spirit, is the basis of all further growth, because without our separating ourselves from the culture we grow us in and its goals for us and our growing dependence on God in everything—direction and love and forgiveness and purpose—we cannot climb the rest of the ladder.


The Rev. Steve Garnass-Holmes writes a daily blog called Unfolding Light. Recently, on 3.8.21, he penned this poem:

Abandon your desires

and the longing of God rises in you.

Want nothing—

God’s hunger fills you.

Lay down your power and the power of love

is a hammer in your hand

that is not in your hand, but God’s.

Searching, put away your lantern and see

the candle is already lit within you.

Poverty of spirit means that we no longer depend on ourselves, but only on God. With prayer and dedication, God’s spirit emerges from deep within us. It’s the part of us that was created in God’s image (Genesis 1:27) and has lain dormant in us until we recognize the poverty of spirit within us and turn to God.


And when we recognize that poverty, that need in us, and give ourselves over to God’s care, love and forgiveness, then the second part of the Beatitude comes true: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Notice the present tense: there is no waiting for heaven after we die. As Jesus said, the kingdom of heaven “has come near you” (Matthew 3:2); it is “in your midst” (Luke 17: 21). It is the gift that we are waiting for—the dwelling in God’s holy space, even as we live out our lives in this world. Amen!


Questions to ponder over the week: Have I really recognized my own poverty of spirit and given my life to Christ? If I haven’t, what holds me back? Do I live in this world, but not of the world, but of God?


Blessing for the week: May we be the people of God who see our poor we are and how in need of God’s help and sustenance in our lives. May we seek God’s help in all that we do. May we follow His suggestions for us.


For the month of March I am giving away a 10-week journaling guide to Jesus’s Two Great Commandments which is designed to deepen your faith in God and in these Two Great Commandments. If you are interested, email me at and I will email you a pdf file of the guide.


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