“Blessed are the poor in spirit,” said Jesus. To understand this phrase, we start with the word poor. In ancient Israel, the society could be divided into different economic groups. The wealthy lived in luxury, as they do today. Next was what might be called a “middle class,” although they were certainly poorer than the middle class today. These people owned property and ran businesses, but did not live in luxury.
But when it came to the poor, there were two groups. We know this by studying different words translated as “poor.” The first group did not own property, but they were able-bodied and worked as day laborers. The second group were the truly destitute. They were not able to earn any wages and were beggars. They were often physically disabled or blind. Sometimes they were victims of circumstance, like a widow without children. In their society, widows did not own property and were unable to inherit.
This word for the destitute poor is used in Mark 12:41-42, which reads, “Jesus sat down opposite the place where the offerings were put and watched the crowd putting their money into the temple treasury. Many rich people threw in large amounts. But a poor widow came and put in two very small copper coins, worth only a few cents.”(NIV) It goes on to say this was all she had to live on.
This is the word poor Jesus used in the Beatitude. Now that we understand the word poor, tomorrow we’ll look at the word spirit.
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Bumper music “Landing Place” performed by Mark July, used under license from Shutterstock.