What does Matthew 5:3 mean?
ESV: “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
NIV: Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
NASB: Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
CSB: "Blessed are the poor in spirit, for the kingdom of heaven is theirs.
NLT: 'God blesses those who are poor and realize their need for him, for the Kingdom of Heaven is theirs.
KJV: Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
NKJV: “Blessed are the poor in spirit, For theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Verse Commentary:
Matthew 5:3–12 contains what have come to be known as the Beatitudes. This title comes from the Latin word beatus, which means "blessed" or "happy." Each of the Beatitudes begins with a reference to those who are blessed, in connection to some behavior or attitude. The idea of being "blessed" in Jesus' sermon does not mean feeling happy, necessarily. Rather it means recognizing what is truly good in a person's life and why. It refers to those on the right track, who are following a godly pattern of thoughts and actions.

Jesus begins by saying that the poor in spirit are blessed. This is not a reference to money or finances. To be "poor in spirit" is the opposite of being self-confident or self-reliant, especially in any spiritual sense. The poor in spirit recognize they are incapable of providing for themselves by their own strength, goodness, or righteousness. They know themselves to be spiritually bankrupt of true goodness. They cannot hope to bargain or earn their way into the kingdom of heaven.

Jesus says, though, that they are blessed because the kingdom of heaven is theirs already. In other words, admission that one does not deserve a place in God's kingdom is a requirement for entrance into that kingdom. This is the opposite of assuming one has earned citizenship by his own merit.

Even as part of a sermon from Jesus, these words need to be understood in careful context. Jesus is not teaching, in this one single verse, every detail of the plan of salvation. As He continues to teach, Jesus will be clear—and the New Testament will emphasize—that nobody comes to the Father except through faith in Christ for the forgiveness of sin.

A corresponding attitude to salvation is that of being poor in spirit. The kingdom of heaven will be populated by the humble and not the arrogant. In that way, the poor in spirit are blessed.
Verse Context:
Matthew 5:1–12 contains the beautiful Beatitudes delivered by Jesus in His Sermon on the Mount. The series of nine sentences describes an unlikely group of people as blessed: the poor in spirit, those who mourn, the meek, those hungry for righteousness, and the merciful. All are blessed because of their part in the kingdom of heaven. This includes those persecuted for the sake of righteousness and on account of Jesus. Instead of despairing, they should rejoice for the great rewards they will receive in heaven. These are not prerequisites for salvation; instead, they are the natural expressions of saving faith in the life of those who know Christ.
Chapter Summary:
The Sermon on the Mount contains some of Jesus' most challenging teaching. It begins with the unlikely blessings of the Beatitudes. Jesus' disciples must do good works in order to be a powerful influence: as the salt of the earth and light of the world. The superficial righteousness of the Pharisees is not good enough to earn heaven. Sins of the heart, such as angry insults and intentional lust, are worthy of hell just as much as adultery and murder. Easy divorce and deceptive oaths are forbidden. Believers should not seek revenge. Instead, God intends us to love our enemies and pray for our persecutors. In short, we should strive to be perfect, as God is perfect.
Chapter Context:
Matthew 5 follows Matthew's description of the enormous crowds that were following Jesus (Matthew 4:25). One day, Jesus sits down on a hill to teach them, in an address we now call the Sermon on the Mount. He describes as blessed those who are poor in spirit, who mourn, and who are persecuted. Christ also explains how God's standards of righteousness go far beyond behaviors and speech; they also include our thoughts and attitudes. Meeting God's standards means perfection. Chapter 6 continues this sermon, with more examples of Jesus clarifying God's intent for godly living.
Book Summary:
The Gospel of Matthew clearly shows the influence of its writer's background, and his effort to reach a specific audience. Matthew was one of Jesus' twelve disciples, a Jewish man, and a former tax collector. This profession would have required literacy, and Matthew may have transcribed some of Jesus' words as they were spoken. This book is filled with references to the Old Testament, demonstrating to Israel that Jesus is the Promised One. Matthew also includes many references to coins, likely due to his former profession. Matthew records extensive accounts of Jesus' teaching, more than the other three Gospels.
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