Hi, we’re new! Lily and Lydia is an online publication for Christian women that was launched in July 2023. While we’re regularly adding new articles, please be patient with us as we build the site!

Hi, we’re new! Lily and Lydia is an online publication for Christian women that was launched in July 2023. While we’re regularly adding new articles, please be patient with us as we build the site!

Poverty of Spirit: A Biblical Study for the Good Girl

Jul 15, 2023 | Faith

Every single one of us is poor in spirit. But not every single one of us realizes it. About six years ago, I prayed a prayer, the consequences of which I could never have imagined. It was the desperate prayer of a 28 year old woman who felt lost in life, and believed that knowing Christ better was the only way forward.

When I was in sixth grade, we studied the beatitudes in our after-school program at church. I remember very little about it, except that there was so much homework. Having grown up in a moralistic, performance-driven church, I entered adulthood well on my way to being a goodie-two-shoed, Biblically illiterate, verse-memorizing, heathen. I did not have a Saul to Paul transformation—I was much too entrenched in what Jerry Bridges called “respectable sins” to even think I was anything other than a “good kid”. There have been different stages in my comprehension of the Gospel, and Lord willing, He will allow that to continue every day of my life.

It was not until my mid-twenties, that I really began investigating Scripture. In my late-twenties, something incredible happened: I began studying Biblical history, culture, and delving into word study. It transformed my understanding of God’s Word, and my desire to know it. In my thirties, I have come to love learning and studying the typology of Christ in the Old Testament, and the application of Biblical truth to life, which has further deepened my understanding of God’s Word, but that is a story for another time. In my late-twenties, this prayer entered.

Every single one of us is poor in spirit. But not every single one of us realizes it. And so this was my prayer: “Lord, please help me to not just cognitively know what this verse means. Please help me to comprehend my own poverty of spirit.”

I was studying the beatitudes again. I quite literally got stuck in the third verse, the first beatitude: “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:3, NASB). “What on earth does ‘poor in spirit’ mean?” I asked myself. I spent months studying this one phrase. “Ptoxos” is the Greek word for poor, or poverty, that is used here. It means bent over, cowering, deeply destitute, completely lacking resources; beggarly poor. If you can, picture a beggar—weak, worn out, filthy, possessing nothing except maybe the rags they are wearing. They are barely able to stretch their hand out to beg for sustenance from passersby. They are bent all the way to the ground. They won’t lift their face for shame and weariness. This is the imagery Jesus invokes to describe those who will receive the kingdom of heaven. Those who are poor in spirit have absolutely nothing to offer Christ; they cannot even go to Him—He came to us. Keep this picture in your mind for a moment. Here is my question: do any of us have anything to offer Christ? I spent most of my life believing I did. As I was studying the beatitudes, I learned that they have a specific progression for a reason. Poverty of spirit must come before anything else can follow.

We are completely destitute apart from Christ. It is so hard for us who live in the western world to understand what it means to have nothing. I cannot imagine it, let alone understand it. Even when we have little, we still have much. But we actually have nothing to offer our holy, gracious, merciful, sovereign God—less than nothing—we are takers, our account is irredeemably overdrawn apart from Christ. Six years later, I am still learning my own poverty of spirit, and some days I function like it all depends on me, like I am in control, independent, like I can do everything on my own. But I inevitably fall. Every single thing I do, every single thing I am capable of doing, is only because of God’s grace. Even the things he has “gifted” me to do, even things that are “good” for me to do—apart from Him—become meaningless, and I end up failing at.

I want to finish the picture for you now—the one that began with a beggar. Grace, charis, means God freely extending Himself, reaching down to His people because He is disposed to be near them. We are filthy, sinful, smelly, empty-handed, and weak. And yet, our holy, perfect, righteous, strong Creator, reaches down to us, in love, with favor, to redeem us, to remove the barrier, to draw us near, at no cost to us, and every cost to Himself. What a picture!

Ellie K _Every single one of us is poor in spirit. But not every single one of us realizes it. About six years ago, I prayed a prayer, the consequences of which I could never have imagined. It was the desperate prayer of a 28 year old woman who felt lost in life, and believed that knowing Christ better was the only way forward.

My name is Ellie, and here is what you should know about me: I have no authority. I am simply a woman who knows that she still does not comprehend the depths of her own depravity, or the goodness of her Savior, despite His continual goodness and love and mercy to me. I love the truth, and I hate deception and manipulation. I love people, and probably because I grew up in the church learning false things and never understanding the Gospel, I really, really care about those who are, or have been, there as well, and hope to be poured out pointing them to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. I hope and pray that anything I share will be the truth of God’s infallible, inerrant, inspired, sufficient Word, the hope of the Gospel, and the love of Christ for you.

Ellie Koutny is a writer, artist, and maker. You can find her on Instagram: @elliekstudio and her shop can be found on Pelavida https://shoppelavida.com/brand/ellie-k-studio/

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