Are you poor? Do you live in poverty? What is this year’s official “poverty level” anyway? The last I heard, it was around $20,000 for a family of four. Most of the world would gladly accept that level of poverty! I guess poverty is a relative thing, depending on who is defining it.
How should we define “poor” in the Scriptures? What did Jesus have in mind when he said, “Blessed are the poor in spirit. . . ."? How poor is poor?
There were two words for poor in the Greek language of the original New Testament. The first word was penes (PEN ace). It referred to the man who could not live from his property, but had to work with his hands as a day-laborer. Because he lived from payday to payday with no reserve wealth to sustain him, he was poor.
The second word was ptochos (pto KOSS). This man was not only lacking reserve wealth, he also lacked the ability and opportunity to do even manual labor. Perhaps blind or crippled, he was utterly dependent upon society. His only option was to beg. This word for poor came from a verb
meaning “to crouch in fear.”
Which word did Jesus use in Matthew 5:3? Which kind of spiritual poverty did He recommend? Interestingly, it was the second word. Jesus desired men to recognize their spiritual helplessness and become utterly dependent upon God. We cannot labor for a ticket to heaven; we are like beggars—we can only ask.