Matthew wants his readers to understand that there is a new king and a new kingdom. After introducing Jesus, the new king, he draws our attention to the core teaching of the kingdom. Crowds are following Jesus, so Jesus goes up on a mountainside, gathers the disciples close, and begins to teach all of them. If the crowd is typical of other times it will contain Jews and Gentiles, rich and poor, religious purists and sinners. Jesus looks out on this crowd and He begins His teaching with a blessing.
“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 5:3 NIV)
Happy are the people who recognize that they NEED the Spirit of God within them. They will trust God as their King and get to be subjects in His kingdom. This is the good news of God’s grace. God recognizes that I am a spiritual pauper. I cannot be the kind of person God wants me to be without God’s help. All God asks of me is to recognize that this is the situation.
This is harder than it appears. My pride wants to compare my condition with the condition of someone else. It isn’t difficult to find someone who appears to be in much worse condition than me. They may or may not be, but that isn’t the issue. The comparison is all wrong and leads me to look at me rather than at Jesus. One glance at Jesus and I will know that I am far worse than I think I am and hopelessly unable to resolve this situation on my own. I need help. Fortunately, help is available, and God is anxiously waiting to provide it.
Here are some scripture passages to read and reflect on or discuss with your family or small group. The questions following the scriptures are intended to challenge you to apply Jesus’ words to your life today.
Scripture Readings for Further Reflection:
- Psalm 42:1-11
- Isaiah 41:17-20
- Matthew 5:3
- Matthew 26:37-45
- Luke 11:9-13
- Luke 18:9-14
- Philippians 4:12-13
- 2 Corinthians 12:6-10
- How does what you want compare with what you need?
- How would God answer this question for you?
- In what areas of your life do you consider yourself rich?
- In what areas of your life do you consider yourself poor?
- What is your attitude toward the areas of your life where you are rich?
- What is your attitude toward the areas of your life where you are poor?
- What circumstances lead you to forget about God?
- What circumstances cause you to cry out to God, “I need you!”?
- Who or what encourages you when you reach this point?
- Who do you know who could use some encouragement today?
- What does God want to do through you to help someone experience the kingdom of heaven today?
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