Blessed are the poor in spirit, etc. - Or, happy, μακαριοι from μα or μη, not, and κηρ, fate, or death: intimating, that such persons were endued with immortality, and consequently were not liable to the caprices of fate. Homer, Iliad i, 330, calls the supreme gods, Θεων μακαρων, the ever happy and Immortal gods, and opposes them to θνητων ανθρωπων, mortal men.
τω δ 'αυτω μαρτυροι εστων
Προς τε Θεων μακαρων, προς τε θνητων ανθροπων
"Be ye witnesses before the immortal gods, and before mortal men."
From this definition we may learn, that the person whom Christ terms happy is one who is not under the influence of fate or chance, but is governed by an all-wise providence, having every step directed to the attainment of immortal glory, being transformed by the power into the likeness of the ever-blessed God. Though some of the persons, whose states are mentioned in these verses, cannot be said to be as yet blessed or happy, in being made partakers of the Divine nature; yet they are termed happy by our Lord, because they are on the straight way to this blessedness.
Taken in this light the meaning is similar to that expressed by the poet when describing a happy man.
Felix, qui potuit rerum cognoscere causas: Atque metus omnes et inexorabile Fatum
Subjecit pedibus; strepitumque Acherontis avari!
Virg. Geor. ii. v. 490
Which may be thus paraphrased: -
"Happy is he who gains the knowledge of the first cause of all things; who can trample on every fear, and the doctrine of inexorable Fate; and who is not terrified by death, nor by the threatened torments of the invisible world!"
Poor in spirit - One who is deeply sensible of his spiritual poverty and wretchedness. Πτωχος, a poor man, comes from πτωσσω, to tremble, or shrink with fear. Being destitute of the true riches, he is tremblingly alive to the necessities of his soul, shrinking with fear lest he should perish without the salvation of God. Such Christ pronounces happy, because there is but a step between them and that kingdom which is here promised. Some contend, that μακαριοι should be referred to πνευματι, and the verse translated thus: Happy, or blessed in spirit, are the poor. But our Lord seems to have the humiliation of the spirit particularly in view.
Kingdom of heaven - Or, των ουρανων, of the heavens. A participation of all the blessings of the new covenant here, and the blessings of glory above. See this phrase explained, Matthew 3:2; (note). Blessed are the poor! This is God's word; but who believes it? Do we not say, Yea, rather, Blessed is the rich?
The Jewish rabbins have many good sayings relative to that poverty and humility of spirit which Christ recommends in this verse. In the treatise called Bammidbar Rabbi, s. 20, we have these words: There were three (evils) in Balaam: the evil eye, (envy), the towering spirit, (pride), and the extensive mind (avarice).
Tanchum, fol. 84. The law does not abide with those who have the extensive mind, (avarice), but with him only who has a contrite heart.
Rabbi Chanina said, "Why are the words of the law compared to water? Because as waters flow from heights, and settle in low places, so the words of the law rest only with him who is of an humble heart." See Schoettgen.
Blessed are the poor in spirit - The word “blessed” means “happy,” referring to that which produces felicity, from whatever quarter it may come.
Poor in spirit - Luke says simply, Blessed are the poor. It has been disputed whether Christ meant the poor in reference to the things of this life, or to the humble. The gospel is said to be preached to the poor, Luke 4:18; Matthew 11:5. It was predicted that the Messiah would preach to the poor, Isaiah 61:1. It is said that they have special facilities for being saved, Matthew 19:23; Luke 18:24. The state of such persons is therefore comparatively blessed, or happy. Riches produce care, anxiety, and dangers, and not the least is the danger of losing heaven by them. To be poor in spirit is to have a humble opinion of ourselves; to be sensible that we are sinners, and have no righteousness of our own; to be willing to be saved only by the rich grace and mercy of God; to be willing to be where God places us, to bear what he lays on us, to go where he bids us, and to die when he commands; to be willing to be in his hands, and to feel that we deserve no favor from him. It is opposed to pride, and vanity, and ambition. Such are happy:
1.Because there is more real enjoyment in thinking of ourselves as we are, than in being filled with pride and vanity.
2.Because such Jesus chooses to bless, and on them he confers his favors here.
3.Because theirs will be the kingdom of heaven hereafter.
It is remarkable that Jesus began his ministry in this manner, so unlike all others. Other teachers had taught that happiness was to be found in honor, or riches, or splendor, or sensual pleasure. Jesus overlooked all those things, and fixed his eye on the poor and the humble, and said that happiness was to be found in the lowly vale of poverty more than in the pomp and splendors of life.
Theirs is the kingdom of heaven - That is, either they have special facilities for entering the kingdom of heaven, and of becoming Christians here, or they shall enter heaven hereafter. Both these ideas are probably included. A state of poverty a state where we are despised or unhonored by people is a state where people are most ready to seek the comforts of religion here, and a home in the heavens hereafter. See the notes at Matthew 2:2.
Seated upon the mount, surrounded by His disciples and a large ... gathering, Jesus “opened his mouth, and taught them, saying, Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” These are not murmurers and complainers, but those who are content with their condition and surroundings in life. They do not cherish the feeling that they deserve a better position than that which Providence has assigned them, but manifest a spirit of gratitude for every favor bestowed upon them. Every proud thought and exalted feeling is banished.... RC 61.4Read in context »
Christ seldom gathered His disciples alone to receive His words. He did not choose for His audience those only who knew the way of life. It was His work to reach the multitudes who were in ignorance and error. He gave His lessons of truth where they could reach the darkened understanding. He Himself was the Truth, standing with girded loins and hands ever outstretched to bless, and in words of warning, entreaty, and encouragement, seeking to uplift all who would come unto Him. DA 298.1Read in context »
Christ was a faithful reprover. Never lived there another who so hated evil; never another whose denunciation of it was so fearless. To all things untrue and base His very presence was a rebuke. In the light of His purity, men saw themselves unclean, their life's aims mean and false. Yet He drew them. He who had created man, understood the value of humanity. Evil He denounced as the foe of those whom He was seeking to bless and to save. In every human being, however fallen, He beheld a son of God, one who might be restored to the privilege of his divine relationship. Ed 79.1
“God sent not His Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through Him might be saved.” John 3:17. Looking upon men in their suffering and degradation, Christ perceived ground for hope where appeared only despair and ruin. Wherever there existed a sense of need, there He saw opportunity for uplifting. Souls tempted, defeated, feeling themselves lost, ready to perish, He met, not with denunciation, but with blessing. Ed 79.2
The beatitudes were His greeting to the whole human family. Looking upon the vast throng gathered to listen to the Sermon on the Mount, He seemed for the moment to have forgotten that He was not in heaven, and He used the familiar salutation of the world of light. From His lips flowed blessings as the gushing forth of a long-sealed fountain. Ed 79.3Read in context »
4 (see EGW on Genesis 3:24). Deviation More Grievous Than Death—[Matthew 4:4 quoted.] He told Satan that in order to prolong life, obedience to God's requirements was more essential than temporal food. To pursue a course of deviation from the purposes of God, in the smallest degree, would be more grievous than hunger or death (Redemption Or The First Advent Of Christ With His Life And Ministry, 48). 5BC 1083.2Read in context »