Matthew 5:3 Commentar
January 26, 2021, 7:44 AM

Tuesday, 26 January, 2021

Sarasota, Florida


First I want to tell you how much I am enjoying our coming together to study and discuss AW Tozer’s “THE PURSUIT OF GOD”   I am impressed by and thankful for your faithfulness.   Your desire to know more of your God is so encouraging.

Last meeting we had a spirited discussion regarding Matthew 5:3

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

                                                                             Matthew 5:3 (NASB)

As a follow-up to that discussion, I considered sharing some of my thoughts on this blog.   However, there came to me a better way.

I have excerpted comments from the four commentaries that I use faithfully in my studies.  Referring to them regularly to help guide my thinking and understanding.   A supplement to my prayers and communion with the Holy Spirit.

They are:

  • William Barclay, Barclay's Daily Study Bible (NT),
  • Broadman Bible Commentary
  • · J. Vernon McGee, Thru The Bible with J. Vernon McGee,
  • Warren Wiersbe, Be Loyal (Matthew)  BE Series

You will find those excerpts below.  Without any editing or comment on my part. 

I pray you find them helpful.  By posting them on this blog any who did not choose to read these comments did not have to clear their email box. 😊



Bob Sharp

Bob Sharp


Copied from:  William Barclay, Barclay's Daily Study Bible (NT),

The Supreme Blessedness (Matt 5:3)

5:3 Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Before we study each of the beatitudes in detail there are two general facts which we must note.

(i) It can be seen that every one of the beatitudes has precisely the same form. As they are commonly printed in our Bibles, each one of them in the King James Version has the word are printed in italic, or sloping, type. When a word appears in italics in the King James Version it means that in the Greek, or in the Hebrew, there is no equivalent word, and that that word has had to be added to bring out the meaning of the sentence.

This is to say that in the beatitudes there is no verb, there is no are. Why should that be? Jesus did not speak the beatitudes in Greek; he spoke them in Aramaic, which was the kind of Hebrew people spoke in his day. Aramaic and Hebrew have a very common kind of expression, which is in fact an exclamation and which means, "O the blessedness of..." That expression ('ashere (<H835>) in the Hebrew) is very common in the Old Testament. For instance, the first Psalm begins in the Hebrew: "O the blessedness of the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly" (Ps 1:1), that is the form in which Jesus first spoke the beatitudes. The beatitudes are not simple statements; they are exclamations: "O the blessedness of the poor in spirit!"

That is most important, for it means that the beatitudes are not pious hopes of what shall be; they are not glowing, but nebulous prophecies of some future bliss; they are congratulations on what is. The blessedness which belongs to the Christian is not a blessedness which is postponed to some future world of glory; it is a blessedness which exists here and now. It is not something into which the Christian will enter; it is something into which he has entered.

True, it will find its fulness and its consummation in the presence of God; but for all that it is a present reality to be enjoyed here and now. The beatitudes in effect say, "O the bliss of being a Christian! O the joy of following Christ! O the sheer happiness of knowing Jesus Christ as Master, Saviour and Lord!" The very form of the beatitudes is the statement of the joyous thrill and the radiant gladness of the Christian life. In face of the beatitudes a gloom-encompassed Christianity is unthinkable.

(ii) The word blessed which is used in each of the beatitudes is a very special word. It is the Greek word makarios (<G3107>). Makarios is the word which specially describes the gods. In Christianity there is a godlike joy.

The meaning of makarios (<G3107>) can best be seen from one particular usage of it. The Greeks always called Cyprus he (<G3588>) makaria (<G3107>) (the feminine form of the adjective), which means The Happy Isle, and they did so because they believed that Cyprus was so lovely, so rich, and so fertile an island that a man would never need to go beyond its coastline to find the perfectly happy life. It had such a climate, such flowers and fruits and trees, such minerals, such natural resources that it contained within itself all the materials for perfect happiness.

Makarios (<G3107>) then describes that joy which has its secret within itself, that joy which is serene and untouchable, and self-contained, that joy which is completely independent of all the chances and the changes of life. The English word happiness gives its own case away. It contains the root hap which means chance. Human happiness is something which is dependent on the chances and the changes of life, something which life may give and which life may also destroy. The Christian blessedness is completely untouchable and unassailable. "No one," said Jesus, "will take your joy from you" (Jn 16:22). The beatitudes speak of that joy which seeks us through our pain, that joy which sorrow and loss, and pain and grief, are powerless to touch, that joy which shines through tears, and which nothing in life or death can take away.

The world can win its joys, and the world can equally well lose its joys. A change in fortune, a collapse in health, the failure of a plan, the disappointment of an ambition, even a change in the weather, can take away the fickle joy the world can give. But the Christian has the serene and untouchable joy which comes from walking for ever in the company and in the presence of Jesus Christ.

The greatness of the beatitudes is that they are not wistful glimpses of some future beauty; they are not even golden promises of some distant glory; they are triumphant shouts of bliss for a permanent joy that nothing in the world can ever take away.

It seems a surprising way to begin talking about happiness by saying, "Blessed are the poor in spirit." There are two ways in which we can come at the meaning of this word poor.

As we have them the beatitudes are in Greek, and the word that is used for poor is the word ptochos (<G4434>). In Greek there are two words for poor. There is the word penes (<G3993>). Penes describes a man who has to work for his living; it is defined by the Greeks as describing the man who is autodiakonos, that is, the man who serves his own needs with his own hands. Penes (<G3993>) describes the working man, the man who has nothing superfluous, the man who is not rich, but who is not destitute either. But, as we have seen, it is not penes (<G3993>) that is used in this beatitude, it is ptochos (<G4434>), which describes absolute and abject poverty. It is connected with the root ptossein (<G4434>), which means to crouch or to cower; and it describes the poverty which is beaten to its knees. As it has been said, penes (<G3993>) describes the man who has nothing superfluous; ptochos (<G4434>) describes the man who has nothing at all. So this beatitude becomes even more surprising. Blessed is the man who is abjectly and completely poverty-stricken. Blessed is the man who is absolutely destitute.

As we have also seen the beatitudes were not originally spoken in Greek, but in Aramaic. Now the Jews had a special way of using the word Poor. In Hebrew the word is 'aniy (<H6041>) or 'ebyown (<H34>). These words in Hebrew underwent a four-stage development of meaning. (i) They began by meaning simply poor. (ii) They went on to mean, because poor, therefore having no influence or power, or help, or prestige. (iii) They went on to mean, because having no influence, therefore down-trodden and oppressed by men. (iv) Finally, they came to describe the man who, because he has no earthly resources whatever, puts his whole trust in God.

So in Hebrew the word poor was used to describe the humble and the helpless man who put his whole trust in God. It is thus that the Psalmist uses the word, when he writes, "This poor man cried, and the Lord heard him, and saved him out of all his troubles" (Ps 34:6). it is in fact true that in the Psalms the poor man, in this sense of the term, is the good man who is dear to God. "The hope of the poor shall not perish for ever" (Ps 9:18). God delivers the poor (Ps 35:10). "In thy goodness, O God, thou didst provide for the needy" (Ps 68:10). "He shall defend the cause of the poor of the people" (Ps 72:4). "He raises up the needy out of affliction, and makes their families like flocks" (Ps 107:41). "I will satisfy her poor with bread" (Ps 132:15). In an these cases the poor man is the humble, helpless man who has put his trust in God.

Let us now take the two sides, the Greek and the Aramaic, and put them together. Ptochos (<G4434>) describes the man who is absolutely destitute, the man who has nothing at all; 'aniy (<H6041>) and 'ebyown (<H34>) describe the poor, and humble, and helpless man who has put his whole trust in God. Therefore, "Blessed are the poor in spirit" means:

Blessed is the man who has realised his own utter helplessness, and who has put his whole trust in God.

If a man has realized his own utter helplessness, and has put his whole trust in God, there will enter into his life two things which are opposite sides of the same thing. He will become completely detached from things, for he will know that things have not got it in them to bring happiness or security; and he will become completely attached to God, for he will know that God alone can bring him help, and hope, and strength. The man who is poor in spirit is the man who has realized that things mean nothing, and that God means everything.

We must be careful not to think that this beatitude calls actual material poverty a good thing. Poverty is not a good thing. Jesus would never have called blessed a state where people live in slums and have not enough to eat, and where health rots because conditions are all against it. That kind of poverty it is the aim of the Christian gospel to remove. The poverty which is blessed is the poverty of spirit, when a man realises his own utter lack of resources to meet life, and finds his help and strength in God.

Jesus says that to such a poverty belongs the Kingdom of Heaven. Why should that be so? If we take the two petitions of the Lord's Prayer and set them together:

Thy Kingdom come.

Thy will be done in earth as it is in heaven, we get the definition: the Kingdom of God is a society where God's will is as perfectly done in earth as it is in heaven. That means that only he who does God's will is a citizen of the Kingdom; and we can only do God's will when we realize our own utter helplessness, our own utter ignorance, our own utter inability to cope with life, and when we put our whole trust in God. Obedience is always founded on trust. The Kingdom of God is the possession of the poor in spirit, because the poor in spirit have realized their own utter helplessness without God, and have learned to trust and obey.

So then, the first beatitude means:

O the bliss of the man who has realized his own utter helplessness, and who has put his whole trust in God, for thus alone he can render to God that perfect obedience which will make him a citizen of the kingdom of heaven!

William Barclay, Barclay's Daily Study Bible (NT), WORDsearch CROSS e-book, Under: "The Bliss of the Destitute".


Copied From:                               Broadman Bible Commentary

The word makarioi introduces each of the nine Beatitudes. It is a declaration of blessedness, an interjection not requiring a verb. It does not describe one’s inner feeling about himself but his state of blessedness as seen by Jesus. The meaning intended may be expressed as “Oh, the happiness of," but the familiar “Blessed” is adequate.

The poor in spirit (v. 3). Luke’s “you poor” (6:20) is likely to be more primitive than Matthew’s “poor in spirit.” Two views can be traced in ancient Judaism, one seeing wealth as a sign of God’s favor, with adversity as a sign of divine judgment. The other view identifies wealth with wickedness and poverty with piety (cf. James 2:5; 5:1). Luke’s Beatitude reflects the latter pattern, “the poor," possibly identified with “the people of the land.” The Semitic term behind the Greek designates the pious in Israel, chiefly but not exclusively identified with the materially poor. Matthew removes the ambiguity by adding “in spirit," recognizing that material or social poverty alone is not a mark of faith or piety.

The Beatitudes stress the striking contrast between outward appearance and inner reality. The kingdom of heaven belongs not to those who by the world’s standards are rich and mighty. They alone reign with God who surrender all claims to that end.

Neither material nor spiritual poverty is blessed, but one’s honest and humble acknowledgment of his impoverishment (cf. Isa. 61:1) opens the way for the reception of God’s blessings. It is precisely when man sees his own nothingness that God can give out of his own fulness. Lohmeyer (p. 83) argues that poor in spirit refers to those who voluntarily accept material poverty or even sell their possessions and give to the poor (19:21), thus finding in Matthew the same emphasis upon outward poverty as in Luke. So understood, Matthew stresses the blessedness of freedom from the tyranny of outward things, living under the rule of heaven rather than the rule of earthly goods (cf. 6:19-34).

Clifton J Allen, Matthew-Mark, (Nashville, Tennessee: WORDsearch, 1969), WORDsearch CROSS e-book, 104.


J. Vernon McGee, Thru The Bible with J. Vernon McGee,

Relationship Of The Subjects Of The Kingdom To Self (5:1-16)

And seeing the multitudes, he went up into a mountain: and when he was set, his disciples came unto him:

And he opened his mouth, and taught them, saying [Matt. 5:1-2].

Although He did not actually give the Sermon on the Mount to the multitudes, He gave it to the disciples because He saw the multitudes and their need. Therefore, it was given to the multitudes indirectly.

In our day, men need first to come to Christ. While the Kingdom is actually in abeyance, the present state of it is a place where the seed is being sown, and the seed is the Word of God. Our business in the world is to sow the seed, and the day is coming when Christ will establish His Kingdom upon this earth.

Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven [Matt. 5:3].

This verse says, "Blessed are the poor in spirit." It doesn't tell you how to become poor in spirit; it just says, "Blessed are the poor in spirit." In these twelve verses, our Lord used the word blessed nine times. By the way, the Psalms open with the same word: "Blessed is the man..." (Ps. 1:1). This is in contrast to the curses of the Mosaic Law. You may remember that Joshua was told that when the people of Israel were come over Jordan, they were to stand on Mount Gerizim to bless the people. And then the curses were to be given from Mount Ebal. The blessings from the Sermon on the Mount are in sharp contrast to the curses from Mount Ebal, and they far exceed the blessings from Mount Gerizim, because Christ alone can bring those blessings. In our day only the saved sinner can know his poverty of spirit -- "Blessed are the poor in spirit." The Sermon on the Mount, instead of making folk poor in spirit, makes them boast -- like the man I referred to. He was boasting that the Sermon on the Mount was his religion, and he was trying to kid himself and kid me into thinking that he was keeping it. He wasn't keeping it at all; it was just making a hypocrite out of him. And there are a lot of those around.

I played golf one day in Tulsa, Oklahoma, with a very wealthy oil man. He told me, "I went to church just like the rest of the hypocrites, and I was one of them, talking about keeping the Sermon on the Mount. Then one day I found out that I was a lost sinner on the way to hell. I turned to Jesus Christ, and He saved me!" Oh, my friend, don't be deceived. Only the Spirit of God can reveal to you your poverty of spirit. The Lord Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount was not telling His disciples how to become citizens of the Kingdom of Heaven. They already were citizens of the Kingdom.

We Christians today are actually very poor in spirit, we are spiritually bankrupt, but we have something to give which is more valuable than silver and gold. Paul expressed it this way: 'As sorrowful, yet alway rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, and yet possessing all things" (2Cor. 6:10). "As poor, yet making many rich" is referring to spiritual riches which are available to everyone who belongs to Christ.

J. Vernon McGee, Thru The Bible with J. Vernon McGee, (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 1983), WORDsearch CROSS e-book, Under: "Chapter 5".


Copied from:   Warren Wiersbe, Be Loyal  A commentary in the BE series

What True Righteousness Is (Matt. 5:1-16)

Being a master Teacher, our Lord did not begin this important sermon with a negative criticism of the scribes and Pharisees. He began with a positive emphasis on righteous character and the blessings that it brings to the life of the believer. The Pharisees taught that righteousness was an external thing, a matter of obeying rules and regulations. Righteousness could be measured by praying, giving, fasting, etc. In the Beatitudes and the pictures of the believer, Jesus described Christian character that flowed from within.

Imagine how the crowd's attention was riveted on Jesus when He uttered His first word: "Blessed." (The Latin word for blessed is beatus, and from this comes the word beatitude.) This was a powerful word to those who heard Jesus that day. To them it meant "divine joy and perfect happiness." The word was not used for humans; it described the kind of joy experienced only by the gods or the dead. "Blessed" implied an inner satisfaction and sufficiency that did not depend on outward circumstances for happiness. This is what the Lord offers those who trust Him!

The Beatitudes describe the attitudes that ought to be in our lives today. Four attitudes are described here.

Our attitude toward ourselves (v. 3). To be poor in spirit means to be humble, to have a correct estimate of oneself (Rom. 12:3). It does not mean to be "poor spirited" and have no backbone at all! "Poor in spirit" is the opposite of the world's attitudes of self-praise and self-assertion. It is not a false humility that says, "I am not worth anything, I can't do anything!" It is honesty with ourselves: we know ourselves, accept ourselves, and try to be ourselves to the glory of God.

Warren Wiersbe, Be Loyal (Matthew), (Colorado Springs, CO: Victor, 2003), WORDsearch CROSS e-book, 21.

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