Holding to Truth

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What Does It Mean to be Poor in Spirit?

Verse 3 of Matthew chapter 5 uses a peculiar phrase. It says,
“Blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the kingdom of the heavens.”

After reading this, you may be left wondering, “What does it mean to be poor in spirit? What is this verse referring to?”

A response like this is completely understandable. It’s not often that we use the phrase “poor in spirit.” Actually, I can’t think of any other time I’ve heard it used other than in Matthew 5:3, or in reference to it.

So what does it mean to be poor in spirit?

To be poor in spirit means that we’re emptied and unloaded in our spirit. We’re made of three parts—a spirit, a soul, and a body—and our deepest part is our spirit. To be “poor in spirit” is to be emptied and unloaded in this part.

This means that our spirit is emptied and unloaded before God because our spirit is the part that’s most closely related to Him. To be poor in spirit means that, instead of thinking we know a lot or that we have all the answers, we think, “Lord, I need to see and know more. I need You to show me more of what’s on Your heart and more of what’s in Your Word.”

The problem is this: Quite often we think we know so much. Whether we’re a high-school student or a theological grad student, we think we already understand the Bible and we already know what God’s eternal purpose is—but what if we don’t?

We need to be humbled to realize that there is so much about God for us to understand. Our God is an infinite, measureless God. He created the heavens and the earth through the words that He spoke. All things came into being through Him, and He’s ever-existing and eternally unchanging. He’s the un-created, invisible, eternally wise God.

As such a God, how can we fully grasp everything about Him that’s conveyed through His Word by the time we’re 18, by the time we’re 55, or by the time we’re even older? There’s so much of God to learn about and to lay hold of. Actually, we can spend the rest of our lives getting to know God, and we still won’t exhaust what we can learn about who He is and what His eternal purpose is. We will never exhaust the limitless God.

So instead of thinking that we know so much, we instead should realize that we don’t know very much. We should humble ourselves before God and tell Him,

“God, you are truly awesome. You are the Creator of the heavens and of the earth. In You, the entire earth came into being. God, I worship you for who you are, what you’ve done, and what you are doing. Save me from ever thinking I know enough already and cause me to be poor in spirit. Empty me and unload me right now. Empty me and fill me with more of Yourself and more of Your Word. I want to see more, know more, experience more, and grow more. Gain me fully for Your eternal purpose and save me from ever thinking I’m full; save me from ever feeling satisfied with what I’ve learned and experienced of You.”

Praying in this way will cause us to be poor in spirit. It will cause us to be emptied and unloaded and to be able to receive more from God. In the same way that a cup can’t be filled with more liquid if it’s already full, we can’t be filled with more of God and more of His Word if we’re already full. We have to humble ourselves and be emptied before Him. This is what it means to be poor in spirit.

Please leave a comment to share with us what you learned about what it means to be poor in spirit.

About Joe Putnam

Hi, my name is Joe Putnam. I live in Lubbock, TX, and contribute posts here on Holding to Truth from time to time. Please leave a comment to let us know what you enjoyed from this post. Thanks!

36 Replies

  1. I like the word “unloaded”.

    Maybe you can embed a link when the article mentions “we are created of three parts…”

    1. Tom Smith

      Ricky,

      Thanks for the suggestion to link to the God-shaped Vacuum video tract.

      Tom

  2. Beatriz

    If we are not poor in spirit it is easy for us to become proud with the revelation we have in the Lord’s recovery.
    No need to spend time with the Lord. Everything is in the books.
    I was exposed when reading the footnote of Rev 3:17: rich in the vain knowledge of doctrine, but in reality poor in the experience of the riches of Christ;
    also naked, blind, and full of shame and darkness.
    May the Lord have mercy on me.

    1. Hi Beatriz, it is very easy to become proud, and no matter what our heritage is, we need to come back to the Lord daily to receive fresh light and a fresh supply. Any time we think we already know something, we limit what else the Lord can possibly show us.

      Thank you for your comment! 🙂

      1. fadairo oluseun

        Wonderful extortation also brilliant comment,i love this!Brethren,egg-on please,this is impressive in the sight of the Lord.

        1. Joe Putnam

          Awesome! We’re so happy that this post helped, and thank you for leaving a comment!

    2. Thanks for sharing Beatriz. We must be brought back to Christ. The book should not replace His place in our heart, rather, they should lead us back to Him.. What happened to Laodicea is such a warning! Lord, humble us some more…

      1. Lord may I know you and the power of your resurrection.

  3. Amen to this article. After reading this I realized how much I need to come to the Lord with an open heart to be unloaded and emptied from any previous knowledge that can hinder me from knowing God and experiencing Him right now! There’s so much more of God that we need to know! He’s so much to us, and He wants us to enjoy so many more of His riches! But what about our vessel? Are we open? Are we poor in spirit? If we’re poor in spirit, the kingdom of the heavens is ours!

    1. Hi Stefan, I totally agree. It’s super easy to become satisfied with what we think we know, missing out on the fact that their is so much more of Christ to be gained. Oh Lord, cause us to be poor in spirit and gain us more for Your purpose!

  4. Timothy

    What a sobering thought. To think that we would miss out on knowing God more simply because we were full or proud, tricked into thinking we knew it all. When I stop and think about it now it is easy for me to say “clearly God is great and vast and clearly only a fool would think he knew it all.” The fact is though, while I may realize such thoughts are silly and while my logic may easily agree with the idea of needing to be emptied the fact remains that there are church meetings and times of ministry where I may stop listening, even by subconscious choice. The reason I stop? It is most surely because I think I’ve heard it before.
    What I know is, I NEED God’s mercy. I guess it couldn’t hurt to ask Him “Lord, cause me to be poor in spirit. I don’t want to miss You. Lord Jesus, help me to be ready and willing to receive a fresh word from You.”

  5. David

    I always remember Luke 1:53 in relation to Matthew 5:3 – “The hungry He has filled with good things, and the rich He has sent away empty.” It’s amazing that the Lord should list this as the first requirement for the kingdom of the heavens.

    1. Joe Putnam

      Wow, that’s a really good verse. Thank you for sharing it.

  6. Frank

    Refreshing post thank you. I needed that. Grace

  7. Mari

    Amen, yes Lord may we be those constantly emptying ourselves before You. Allowing Your freshly to fill us & speak to us through Your word & through Your Body. Thanks for the post Joe!

    1. Joe Putnam

      You’re welcome. 🙂

  8. I love the fact that being empty allows us to have more, more, more fillling of Jesus Christ. I can’t live without wanting more of Him. Bless your name Jesus!

    1. Joe Putnam

      Amen, thank you for your comment! It’s so true that as we’re emptied, unloaded, and poor in spirit, we have room to be filled with more of Christ. 🙂

  9. Dammie

    This is insightful, it takes God’s grace to come humbled, unloaded and unassuming before him: but when we do this, we’ll get more of him and the Kingdom of God is ours. Thanks for the teaching.

    1. Joe Putnam

      You’re welcome, and we’re glad you found it helpful. May the Lord gain us all as ones who are poor in spirit so He can fill us with more of Himself and bring us on to the full knowledge of the truth.

  10. Emmie

    I really liked how you compared a cup that can’t be filled with more liquid if it’s already full, to a person who can’t be filled with more of God and more of His Word if they are already full. It made me think of something I heard on Joyce Meyer some time ago which I’ll tell to the best of my recollection. Joyce spoke about a woman who wrote her about when she prayed to God asking Him to help Joyce with her sermons. She was a devout follower of Joyce’s sermons and was accustomed to receiving much insight and inspiration; however, lately had not received anything. This she attributed to Joyce, so she asked God to help Joyce rekindle inspiration. She said her prayers were answered, but not in the way she had expected. She felt that God had told her that Joyce was not the problem; SHE was. The problem was that she was trying to fill a “bottle” that was already full; she needed to go out and use what she had learned, and THEN she would be ready to learn more and receive new insight and inspiration. I love your prayer to ask to be emptied, which is of vital importance because we can of our own selves “do nothing, but do all things through the Christ”; however, I think we also need to do our part in the emptying of our “bottle” by USING what we have learned. Thank you so much for all of your wonderful insight Mr. Putman.

    1. Joe Putnam

      Hi Emmie, thank you for the comment. It’s really true that we can become so full that there’s no more room for the Lord to fill us with more of Himself. One of the best ways to help with this, as you mention, is to speak what we’ve received to others. I’ve heard this compared to a water hose. Unless water flows out of the end, there’s no way for more water to flow in. Also, one of the main things that gets in our way is pride. Whenever we think we know a lot, it’s difficult for the Lord to show us more because we aren’t as open to His speaking. May the Lord help us all to be poor in spirit and to be fully open to Him.

  11. Reminds of Isa. 66:1-2 Where Jehovah says where is the house that you will build for me, and where is the place of My rest. It continues with…but to this kind of man will I look, to him who is poor.

    Being poor in spirit affords the Lord the opportunity to make His home in our hearts, thus allowing Him to have a home.

    Lord, have mercy on me so that I may be poor in spirit, open to receive you.

    1. Amen. If we’re not empty or poor in spirit, then we don’t need the Lord as much as we do when we are. May the Lord grant us all his mercy to be ones who are poor in spirit so He can make His home in us more and gain us more for His purpose.

  12. chris

    was not sure about what it meant to be poor in spirit meant this sure opened up new insight thank you

    1. Tom Smith

      Chris, It’s a great blessing to be poor in spirit. It means that we are emptied of our “old baggage”–religion, philosophy, concepts, etc. so that we can receive something new from the Lord, and of the Lord. When we come to Him and to His Word, it’s good to pray to be emptied, “Lord, I’m coming to You. Empty me of all the things that occupy me so I that can receive something fresh of You.”

  13. ken Bryant

    Solid article on humility even when we receive new revelation from God. Thks

  14. Dolly

    I’ve read this verse so many times but never really stopped and thought about what it is to be poor in spirit before! This is Gods timing for me to stop racing a head of him…and humble myself before him. Thank you

    1. Tom Smith

      Glad you found the post helpful. To be poor in spirit, we need to exhale all the old things that are filling us up–whether good things or the bad things. This is one benefit of confessing prayers. By emptying out in such a way, we’re able to receive more of the Lord in His newness, just like we breathe in fresh air to be healthy. If we continually practice such a spiritual breathing it will prevent us from becoming old and stale in our Christian life. Then the Lord can lead us in a fresh way and enable us to continually grow in Christ. Here is a hymn on the spiritual breathing that enables us to be poor in spirit.

  15. Dolly

    Thank you Tom, the spiritual breathing hymn you added to your reply is amazing…Gods timing once again on my journey to becoming poor in spirit and a fresh anointing this morning.

    1. Tom Smith

      Yes, breathing the Lord is so vital to our Christian life. Our exhaling everything of our old life–our sin, self, sorrows–by confessing to the Lord is simply our emptying, our becoming poor in spirit. Then we spontaneously inhale all the Lord is to us. In this way we are filled in spirit (Eph. 5:18) with all of the unsearchable riches of Christ (3:8) and become His fullness to express Him (1:23).

  16. fortunate

    l bless the name of the Lord for such a Word, To be poor in Spirit..May the good Lord unload and empty what l have so that l may be able to receive more from him, more of His revelation, teaching, anointing and the divine encounter with Him.

    1. Tom Smith

      Amen. May the Lord grant us His mercy to be freshly emptied and unloaded of all our old concepts, especially the religious ones, so that we are able to receive the Lord’s fresh grace, enlightenment, instruction and supply so that we may walk worthy of His calling to please Him in all things and afford Him the way to fulfill His purpose through us. Thank you for your appreciative comment.

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