The biblical definition of happiness, or blessedness, is different than our culture's definition. If we were to rewrite the Beatitudes for the 21st century, they would be vastly different than what we find in Matthew 5. Modern beatitudes would sound something like this:
Blessed are the beautiful, for they shall be admired.
Blessed are the wealthy, for they have it all.
Blessed are the popular, for they shall be loved.
Blessed are the famous, for they shall be followed.
But Jesus started the Beatitudes with a bombshell: "Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven" (Matthew 5:3). Some have falsely interpreted this verse to say, "Blessed are the poor," but that is not what Jesus said. In fact, the Bible does not commend poverty. Nor does it condemn wealth. It has nothing to do with your bank account. Jesus said, "Blessed are the poor in spirit. . . ." In the original language, the word "poor" is from a verb that means "to shrink, cower, or cringe," as beggars often did in that day. This is speaking of a person who is destitute and completely dependent on others for help. So Jesus was speaking of those who esteem themselves as they really are before God: lost, hopeless, and helpless.
Apart from Jesus Christ, everyone is spiritually destitute—or poor in spirit—regardless of their education, wealth, accomplishments, or even religious knowledge. To be poor in spirit means to acknowledge your spiritual bankruptcy, to acknowledge that you are in need of God.
C. H. Spurgeon said, "The way to rise into God is to sink in your own self." If you want to be a happy person, a blessed person, then you have to see yourself for what you are: a sinner in need of a Savior.
Taken from "Poor in Spirit" by Harvest Ministries (used by permission).