What does “Blessed are the poor in spirit” mean?

If there has been any passage of Jesus’s Beautitudes that I have struggled with the most, it is this:

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

The phrase “poor in spirit” has simply boggled my mind. I simply couldn’t understand what that phrase means.

Fortunately, Fulton Sheen explains in his small yet powerful book The Cross and the Beatitudes his interpretation of this critical passage:

Our Blessed Lord came into the world to destroy this acquisitiveness and this subservience of moral to economic ends by breaching the blessedness of the poor in Spirit. It is worth noting immediately that “the poor in spirit” does not necessarily mean the indigent or those in straitened circumstances of life. “Poor in spirit” means interior detachment, and as such includes even some who are rich in the world’s goods, for detachment can be practiced by the rick just as avarice can practiced by the poor.

The poor in Spirit are those who are so detached from wealth, from social position, and from earthly knowledge that, at the moment the Kingdom of God demands a sacrifice, they are prepared to surrender all.

The Beatitude means then: Blessed are those who are not possessed by their possessions; blessed are they who whether or not they are poor in fact are poor in their inmost spirit. – pp. 49-50

Finally, that phrase makes a lot of sense!


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