What it means to be poor in spirit

The Beatitudes from Our Lord’s Sermon on the Mount is a very well-known piece of Scripture, but many people still wonder about that first beatitude and how it can be obtained. What does it mean to be poor in spirit?

“We have this in the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew’s Gospel. In the Sermon on the Plain, which is akin to it in Luke’s Gospel, it just said, ‘Blessed are the poor.’ In Matthew’s Gospel it said, ‘Blessed are the poor in spirit.’ I’m sure the Lord said it both ways at different times,” explained Msgr. Stuart Swetland, host of Go Ask Your FatherTM on Relevant Radio®.

“But what it means to be poor in spirit is not necessarily that we physically don’t own things, but we recognize that everything is a gift. That if we actually own anything, it’s just we’re stewards of it. That all of it is meant to build up God’s kingdom, and that everything we’ve received—our time, our talent, our treasure, everything else—is a gift from God to be used to build up the kingdom. So poverty in spirit means you recognize your total dependence on God for everything,” said Msgr. Swetland.

Matthew 5:1-12

When Jesus saw the crowds, He went up on the mountain; and after He sat down, His disciples came to Him. He opened His mouth and began to teach them, saying,

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.

Blessed are the gentle, for they shall inherit the earth.

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.

Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.

Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.

Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great; for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”