"Blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the kingdom of heaven"
Jesus is not giving a clever opening illustration to start this sermon. He is saying something profound about the nature of human existence. He is telling us the conditions for a truly blessed life. He tells us unexpected things. We would think He would say, "Blessed are the rich" or "Blessed are the clever" or "Blessed are the powerful." But he says none of these things. Unfortunately we have become so familiar with what Jesus says that they have lost their shock value. However, let me remind you that when you truly understand what is being said, His words will appear shocking!
The lists that Jesus gives of the keys to a truly successful life are counter-intuitive. They are right but few follow after Jesus as the teacher here. We don't want to learn these qualities. We don't really believe that these are the secrets to a blessed life.
Jesus sits down to map out a lifestyle that values different issues. His lifestyle puts a different priority on relationships and material wealth than the typical perspective. He wants His followers to embrace this different value structure.
This first beatitude is about our dependence and our needs. Can we admit that we are not self-contained -- not self-sufficient? The phrase "poor in spirit" means that in the depth of our being we realize that we have needs, but we have no resources or ability to pay for this service or need. We are beggars.
The truth is that we have all kinds of needs in our lives that we have no way to meet. We have a tendency to believe that we will be blessed when we are no longer in the beggar condition.