God’s Kingdom belongs to those who are poor in spirit, those who have realized that they are dependent on God and are really nothing in comparison with His splendor and power. If you are of an independent spirit, haughty and proud of yourself even in the presence of God, then there is something radically wrong with your claim to Christianity.
If we are poor in spirit, however, we soon begin to mourn instead of boast. Self-examination brings us to tears; we mourn our sinful condition and our specific sins. We are torn up over our culture’s slide further and further into a disregard for the Ten Commandments. We are sorry about it all; dismayed by the sin within and the principle of sin that pulls at our very core. We find ourselves experiencing Romans 7. We often cry, “O wretched man that I am!”
The blessing is that those who cry will be comforted. Of course, not all tears lead to comfort. We can cry over our bad circumstances, or be depressed because we are denied an education or job or financial success or security. The tears spoken of here in the Beatitudes are tied directly with the Bible’s teaching on sin and repentance. This sorrow comes from an awareness of our failure to please God, a failure to live the way He has prescribed. These tears lead us to change how we are thinking, acting, living. Mourning is sober and serious. So much today is glib; light-heartedness is admired, making a joke out of serious things is an art. But, Jesus taught that happiness comes through a serious examination of self resulting in change and conformity to a standard of righteousness reflected in the Ten Commandments, God’s moral law that is applicable universally. For instance, adultery and homosexuality are not commended; a life built on lies and slander is not something to joke about; even wishing for something that God has denied you, but given to someone else, is foolish. Our failures lead us to sorrow and tears as we pray for forgiveness.
“The Spirit of the Lord God is upon Me,
Because the LORD has anointed Me
To preach good tidings to the poor;
He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted,
To proclaim the acceptable year of the LORD,
And the day of vengeance of our God;
To comfort all who mourn,
To console those who mourn in Zion,
To give them beauty for ashes,
The oil of joy for mourning,
The garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness;
That they may be called trees of righteousness,
The planting of the LORD, that He may be glorified” (Isaiah 61:1-3).
Jesus applied this passage to himself when he preached in his hometown. He is the one who comforts us when we are distraught because of our sin. His suffering and death bought us forgiveness. Our turning from our sins, with tears, does not earn forgiveness, but it sets the stage for our receiving this ministry of comfort and mercy from our Redeemer. Notice that God is at the center of this life of repentance. And so, biblical mourning and tears over our sin bring us right back to being poor in spirit. Comfort comes from experiencing forgiveness and seeing our total reliance on God for our salvation.
What About The Children?
Of course, children can experience conviction of sin, forgiveness, and comfort. They know they have been disobedient to their parents and teachers! Show them God’s simple rules, point them to the cross, help them to look for forgiveness, and to watch for the Holy Spirit’s applying the promises of the Bible to their own hearts. They remain children, interested in childish things, but the change in them from seeking their own way to being poor in spirit and living with hope will be a great help to them throughout their elementary and teen years.
“Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us” (Romans 5:5). “The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God,…” (Romans 8:16). These verses are just as true for children as they are for adults. Happy are the children who shed tears for their sins, for they shall be comforted.