After selecting His twelve Apostles on a mountaintop, Jesus and His disciples begin to descend the mountain, pausing at a flat area (a plain) where many people from the surrounding areas are waiting to see Him and be healed of various diseases (see Luke 6:17).
After healing the sick, Jesus takes advantage of the opportunity to address the multitude, teaching them things they need to know as His followers. This discourse is commonly referred to as the Sermon on the Mount, and it contains many valuable teachings that continue to be quoted very often today.
The most commonly used version of the Sermon on the Mount appears in Matthew 5-7. An abbreviated version appears in Luke 6:20-49. The entire sermon was later repeated in America for the Nephite people. This version appears in 3 Nephi 12-14. All three versions should be looked at when studying these teachings, as the wording is occasionally slightly different, providing some additional understanding.
The Sermon on the Mount begins with a series of statements that are commonly referred to as the Beatitudes. Each of the Beatitudes begins with the words “Blessed are” and describe a particular trait that a follower of Christ should have (and will be blessed for exhibiting). The first of these is:
“Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 5:3)
At first glance, one might wonder why Jesus wants us to be poor in spirit. Shouldn’t we be filled with the spirit? Well, it depends what type of spirit we’re talking about. In this particular case, Jesus is referring to the human spirit (our human will), which often makes it difficult to be a follower of the Lord. So, being poor in spirit means that we are willing to subject our own will to the will of God.
How does being poor in spirit qualify you to be part of the kingdom of God?
First of all, that’s the frame of mind that you need to be in to come to Christ. Jesus made it clear that these go together by adding a few words when He shared this statement with the Nephites, saying “Blessed are the poor in spirit who come unto me, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (3 Nephi 12:3).
If you have experienced the Lord’s calling, then you have exhibited the trait of being poor in spirit on the day of your baptism. You repented of your sins, indicating that your way was the wrong way, and God’s way is the right way. You promised to serve God for the remainder of your life, following His commandments and direction, rather than charting your own course through life.
If you’re still following Christ today, it’s because you are still willing to be poor in spirit, subjecting your will to the will of God. People who are mostly focused on what they want (rather than what God wants) or what they think is right (rather than what God says is right) will quickly find themselves wandering off the path.
The wisdom of the world tells me to be who I want to be, do what makes me happy, and don’t let anyone tell me that I need to do anything differently. Being poor in spirit means that if what I want is different than what God wants, I say NO to me and YES to God.
“Whosoever will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.” (Mark 8:34)
Don’t be confused into thinking that being poor in spirit indicates some type of deficiency. Rather, it means that we are minimizing our human spirit to allow the Spirit of God to fill us and direct us. When we do that, we can say that we are truly rich in Spirit!
This article has undergone ministry review and approval.