“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” Matthew 5:3
The first beatitude (be attitude) spoken by Jesus is Poor in Spirit. I do not know that the beatitudes are listed in order of importance, but at the head of the list stands a characteristic that is paramount. The first requirement in following Jesus on the kingdom pathway is the recognition that we lack sufficient resources to “pay our own way.” The moment I begin to think in terms of self-sufficiency and the illusion of making it on my own, I block out the connection to Jesus. When we come to Jesus, we come not as equals. The relationship is defined as that of servant/savior. We need him. He desires, loves and wants nothing more than to have relationship with us, but he is not dependent upon us. We are dependent upon him.
Sometimes in the effort to understand a term it is beneficial to look at its opposite. Standing across from and in opposition to “poor in spirit” is pride. Pride is what keeps us from seeing our need for God. Pride allows us to deceive ourselves into thinking we can make it all on our own. Perhaps the theme song for prideful living would be the Frank Sinatra classic, “I did it my way.” The danger of pride is that when we are prideful, we tell ourselves everything is okay. In recovery circles they call this denial. Another danger of pride is what it can lead to in our lives. Many theologians believe pride is the one sin which gives birth to all other sin. One of these writers is C.S. Lewis who in his book Mere Christianity calls pride the “Great Sin”:
“Pride leads to every other vice: it is the complete anti-God state of mind…”
Pride places us in competition with all the people around us. It is not enough to have something (whatever it may be), we want MORE of it than others. Poor in spirit places us in competition with no one. We simply recognize our need and accept the help which is being offered. If I am poor in spirit I gladly receive the help and I am also not bothered by the good taking place in the lives of others.
So the first kingdom requirement, in order listed by Jesus, is to recognize our own spiritual poverty. When we do so, then we can become richly blessed.