WHAT SHOULD BE UNDERSTOOD BY THE WORDS 'POOR IN SPIRIT'
1. Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven (Matthew, 5: 3).
2. Sceptics have mocked this maxim, as they have mocked many other things they do not understand. By 'the poor in spirit' Jesus did not mean those devoid of intelligence, but the humble, in as much as He said that the Kingdom of Heaven would be for them and not for the prideful.
Men of knowledge and imagination, so called by public conviction, generally hold such high opinions of themselves and their superiority that they consider everything divine as being undeserving of their consideration. By concentrating all their attention upon themselves, they are then unable to lift up their eyes to God. This tendency to believe they are superior to everything else very frequently leads them to deny anything which might be above them, even Divinity itself, for fear it might belittle them. Or if they condescend to admit its existence, they then contest one of its most beautiful attributes, that of providential action over things of this world, because they think they alone are sufficient to govern. Taking the intelligence they possess as a measure for universal intelligence, and judging themselves able to understand everything, they are unable to believe in the viability of that which they do not know. They consider their judgement to be law.
If they do not admit the existence of the invisible world and of a superhuman power, it is not because it is beyond their capability, but because their pride makes them revolt against the idea of something above which they are unable to place themselves and which would bring them down from the pedestal upon which they like to contemplate. Hence they only have scorn for everything that does not belong to the visible and tangible world. They attribute to themselves such imagination and learning that they cannot believe in things which, according to their way of thinking, are only good for simple people, taking for poor in spirit all who take such matters seriously.
However, say what they like, they will inevitably be drawn into this invisible world they scoff at, together with everyone else. It is there that their eyes will be opened, so making them realise their errors. Nevertheless, God being just, He cannot receive those who have denied His majesty in the same manner as those who submitted to His laws with humility, nor can He give them equal share.
By saying that the Kingdom of Heaven belongs to the poor in spirit, Jesus teaches that no one will be admitted without simplicity of heart and humility of spirit; that the ignorant person who possesses these qualities will be preferred to the wise person who believes more in himself than in God. In all circumstances Jesus put humility into the category of virtues that bring Man near to God and pride into the category of vices that keep Man away from God. The reason for this is clear, for to be humble is an act of submission to God, whereas pride is a revolt against Him. For Man then, there is far greater value for his future happiness by being poor in spirit, as the world would understand it, and rich in moral qualities.