Happy Are People Who Are Hopeless

“Happy are people who are hopeless, because the kingdom of heaven is theirs.
"God blesses those who are poor and realize their need for him, for the Kingdom of Heaven is theirs.
-Matthew 5:3 (CEB, NLT)

The beatitudes in Matthew 5:3-10, are a list of blessed facets of the followers of Jesus.  But "blessed" is a  word that we have to make sure we understand.  Jesus is not talking about the person whom God blesses, but is describing a happy person, a fortunate person: "someone who is to be congratulated, someone who's place in life is an enviable one" (RT France, Matthew, p. 108, 1985).

The second part of this saying, usually translated "poor in spirit" (Blessed are the poor in spirit) has to do with poverty inside of us.  Poor people have a frame of mind that comes from their destitution, desperateness and their experience of oppression: "Happy are the oppressed", is the way Donald Hagner has translated Matt. 5:3 (D. Hagner, Matthew, p, 87, 1993).

We can easily step back and hear Jesus say these words to other people, poor people or bummed out people, and wonder, "how on earth do his words apply to my life?"  But, Jesus is saying that the happy person, with the fortunate life, is a person who has poverty inside of them.

How can hopelessness equal happiness?  How can happiness come out of hopelessness?

I want happiness and I want good fortune.  Yes I do.  Jesus is saying that these come from hopelessness: being 'poor in spirit'.

"I'm not sure what you mean by that, Jesus"

When someone says, "I am just so blessed", and they point to their children, their home, their friends, their church or their good health; that is not at all what Jesus is referring to here.  Jesus is stating that the happy person who has the happy life is the radically humble person: hopeless.

Without hope in myself equals the happy life, and the life of good fortune.   And that life is the doorway into the life in the kingdom of heaven that starts now.

Our hopelessness in ourselves is magnified when we look at Jesus, and not the other way around.

Some of us are not hopeless in ourselves, when we look at Jesus Christ.  We say, "He is our hope", and I believe that.  But we get into deep trouble in how we seek to commoditize Jesus and take him into our lives for unlimited success.

We are saved, born again believers.  We get it about Jesus and we say He is Savior and Lord and we are committed to Him and His cause in the world.  And we are discovering how we fit into the world now as Christians and we are going to take Jesus or His message to wherever we are going.

We are going to leverage our talents, our education, place in the community: everything we have for God, for Christ.  We are pumped, excited and so ready to go.

That person is excited to sit down with Jesus and show him his or her plans.  We ask Jesus to get into our car or truck and take him around our property or job site or factory site or place where we are going to build for Him, for His glory.  "Look at what I am going to do for you, see my degrees, my resume, my connections that are all gonna be used for the mission."

Take that person, and go back to the mountain and sit and hear Jesus, with all his other followers.  Hear Jesus say these words:
"Happy are people who are hopeless, because the kingdom of heaven is theirs."
Again, I am thinking that this might not be for me.  But it is for me, because he looked me in the eye when he said it.  I still do not understand. 

Jesus is teaching something profound.  He is explaining how being in the kingdom and being his disciple works.  And we have to be careful not to just see and hear Jesus as our teacher, but as our Savior.  He is not  just a teacher, but our Redeemer.  He has come to make us what he teaches we should be (Chambers, My Utmost, p. 203).

It is also impossible to understand or experience this word, outside of Jesus accomplishing it in me, because I have to unconditionally surrender all of my life and every asset and liability to him, for any of his words to work in my life

If you are not born again, born from above or saved: if you are not a believer who has put your faith in Christ; the Sermon on the Mount will read as an idealistic philosophy.  And you will muse, "that is interesting", and believe that, "perhaps some saints down through the ages attained it, but it is too hard for us."  And if part of you wants to follow this Jesus, you end up feeling bad because what he asks and says about his requirements for his followers is pretty much impossible.

And the other road that people put themselves on is a road where we tighten our belts, seek to put steel in our spines and trudge on and into Jesus commands and teachings.  We think we are having victory and do the "look mom, no hands!" thing, but we are following the path of self-righteousness and our hearts are cold.  When we do this, the Lord might set us up for heartbreak or put up some obstacle, to get our attention and to get us in touch with the real hopelessness in "doing it for ourselves", so that we might turn to him and be saved.

If we miss this entryway, this path, then we will misunderstand all of Jesus words that follow.  We need to understand what it means to be a blessed person who is poor in spirit or a happy person who lives in the reality of the hopelessness in themselves, in order to live the life in Christ.

To better understand what Jesus meant and how it applies or works, I want to share a number of quotes from Martyn Lloyd-Jones (1899-1981), who was a Welsh Protestant preacher, minister, and medical doctor.

These quotes are from D. Martin Lloyd-Jones, Studies In The Sermon On The Mount, Chapter Four, Blessed Are The Poor In Spirit; pp. 42-52, (1959, 1993):
  • There is no one in the kingdom of God who is not poor in spirit.
  • All other characteristics are the result of this one.
  • We cannot be filled until we are first empty.
  • You remember the words of Simeon concerning our Lord and Savior when he held Him as an infant in his arms?  He said, 'this child is set for the fall and rising of many'.  The fall comes before the rising again.  It is an essential part of the gospel that conviction must always precede conversion; the gospel of Christ condemns before it saves.
  • I would say that there is no more perfect statement of the doctrine of justification by faith only than this Beatitude: "Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.'
  • This is the foundation for everything else.
  • It condemns every idea of the Sermon on The Mount which thinks of it in terms of something you and I can do do ourselves, something we can carry out.  It negatives that at the very beginning.
  • The Sermon on The Mount , in other words, comes to us and says, 'There is the mountain that you have to scale, the heights you have to climb; and the first thing you must realize, as you look at the mountain which you are told you must ascend, is that you cannot do it, that you are utterly incapable in and of yourself, and that any attempt to do it in your own strength is proof positive that you have not understood it.'  It condemns at the very outset the view which regards it as a programme for man to put into operation immediately, just as he is.
  • You will never find a greater antithesis to the worldly spirit and outlook than which you find in this verse.  What emphasis the world places on self-reliance, self-confidence and self-expression!  Look at its literature.  If you want to get on in this world, it says, believe in yourself.
  • If you want to succeed in a profession, the great thing is to give the impression that you are actually more successful than you actually are, and people say, 'That is the man to go to'.  That is the whole principal on which life is run at this present time-- express yourself, believe in yourself, realize the powers that are innate in yourself and let the whole world see and know them.
  • Now in this verse we are confronted with something which is in utter and absolute contrast to that...
  • What does it mean to be poor in spirit?... To be 'poor in spirit' does not mean that we should be retiring, weak or lacking in courage.
  • To be 'poor in spirit' is not a matter of the suppression of the personality.
  • It was the spirit of a man like Gideon, for instance, who, when the Lord sent an angle to him to tell him the great thing he was to do, said, 'No, no, this is impossible; I belong to the lowest tribe.'
  • You find it in David, when he said, 'Lord who am I that thou should come to me?'
  • You get it in Isaiah in exactly the same way.  Having had a vision, he said, 'I am a a man of unclean lips'.  That is to be 'poor in spirit', and it can be seen right through the Old Testament.
  • But let us look at it in the New testament.  You see it perfectly, for instance, in a man like apostle Peter, who was naturally aggressive, self-assertive, and self-confident-- a typical modern man of the world, brimful this confidence and believing in himself.  But look at him when he truly sees the Lord.  He says, 'Depart from me; for I am a sinful man, O Lord.'
  • ...being 'poor in spirit'.  It means a complete absence of pride, a complete absence of self-assurance and self-reliance.  It means a consciousness that we are nothing in the presence of God,  It is nothing, then, that we can produce; it is nothing that we can do in ourselves.  It is just this tremendous awareness of our utter nothingness as we come face to face with God.  This is to be 'poor in spirit'.
  • It is to feel that we are nothing, and that we have nothing, and that we look to God in utter submission to Him and in utter dependence upon Him and His grace and mercy.
  • Am I like that, am I poor in spirit?  How do I really think about myself when I think of myself in terms of God, and in the presence of God?  And as I live my life, what are the things I am saying, what are the things I am praying about, what are the things I like to think of with regard to myself?
  • How does one become 'poor in spirit'?  The answer is that you do not look at yourself or begin by trying to do things to yourself.  That was the whole error of monasticism.  Those poor men in their desire to do this said, 'I must go out of society, I must scarify my flesh and suffer hardship, I must mutilate my body.'  No, no, the more you do that the more you will be conscious of yourself, and the less 'poor in spirit'.
  • It is also to look at the Lord Jesus Christ and to view Him as we see Him in the gospels.  The more we do that the more we shall understand the reaction of the apostles when, looking at Him and something He had just done, they said, 'Lord, increase our faith.'  Their faith, they felt, was nothing.  They felt it was so weak and so poor.  'Lord. increase our faith.  We thought we had something because we had cast out devils and preached Thy word, but now we feel we have nothing; increase our faith.'  Look at Him; and the more we look at Him, the more hopeless shall we feel by ourselves, and in and of ourselves,  and the more shall we become 'poor in spirit'.  Look at Him.  Keep looking at Him.  Look at the saints, look at the men who have been most filled with the Spirit and used.  But above all, look again at Him, and then you will have nothing to do to yourself.  It will be done.  You cannot truly look at Him without feeling your absolute poverty, and emptiness.  Then you say to Him,
Nothing in my hand I bring,
Simply to thy cross I cling
  • Empty, hopeless, naked, vile.  But He is the all-sufficient One-
Yea, all I need, in Thee to find,
O Lamb of God, I come

-Quoted from D. Martin Lloyd-Jones, Studies In The Sermon On The Mount, pp. 42-52, (1959, 1993)