Blessed Are The Poor In Spirit

Art by Sharron Beg (
Art by Sharron Beg (

Blessed Are The Poor In Spirit

By Stephen W. Hiemstra

Luncheon for the Soul, Wednesday, June 15, 2016 Trinity Presbyterian Church, Herndon, Virginia


Good afternoon. Welcome to the Luncheon for the Soul. My name is Stephen Hiemstra. I am a volunteer pastor from the Centreville Presbyterian Church and a Christian author.

Today’s message focuses on a question: In what ways can we make room for God in our lives? (2X)


Let’s pray.

Heavenly father.  Thank you for your presence among us this morning.  We appreciate that your word still moves our hearts and stimulates our minds. Make your presence especially obvious in this moment and this place.  In the power of your Holy Spirit, open our eyes and give us ears that hear. In the name of Christ Jesus, Amen.


Today’s text comes from the Gospel of Mathew 5:3. This is the first Beatitude and a part of the introduction to the Sermon on the Mount.

Hear the word of the Lord:

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” (Matt 5:3 ESV)[1]

The word of the Lord. Thanks be to God.


In October 2014, I was invited to offer comments on my Book, A Christian Guide to Spirituality, at the Mubarak Mosque in Chantilly, Virginia on the day of Eid.[2] In the Islamic Calendar, Eid is a day as holy as Easter on the Christian calendar and it celebrates the sacrifice of Abraham of his son, Isaac, by means of their own sacrifices of domestic animals, such as sheep.

This invitation made me very nervous. As a Christian, what would I say about the Christian faith to a group of Muslims? Consequently, during the three days before Eid, I began a period of prayer and fasting and asked God what I should say to the Moslems.

God responded to my prayer, but he said nothing about my invitation. Instead and much better, God gave me the inspiration to write a new book, Life in Tension, which I hope to publish later this summer.

In this example of answered prayer, I spent three days in prayer and fasting. In this way, I was open to her a word from God and God responded.

In what ways can we make room for God in our lives? (2X)


Our text today gives another answer to this question, but this text is a bit more interesting and also more complicated in the context of the Bible. Listen again to today’s text:

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” (Matt 5:3 ESV)

Every Word in this Beatitude is interesting for different reasons, as we will see.

Blessed (2X). The New Testament was originally written in the Greek language and the Greek for blessed (the word μακάριος) means: “favor, blessing, fortune, happy (or joyful), and privileged”.[3]

In the Old Testament the most famous use of the word blessed appears in Psalm 1, where we read:

“Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; but his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night.” (Ps 1:1-2 ESV)

Consequently, many times blessed is said to mean more honor or blessings, not only happy or joyful.

Poor in Spirit (2X). This expression is found nowhere else in the Bible,[4] but it explains the significance of the a phrase in Isaiah 61:1, where it is written:

“The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me, because the LORD has anointed me to bring good news to the poor; he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound;” (Isa 61:1 ESV)

Here poor means “brokenhearted”, “captives”, and “those who are bound” which is very similar to the phrase in Matthew for “poor in spirit”.

More important in the understanding of the word, poor, is that in Hebrew, which was the language of the Old Testament, poor also means “afflicted, humble, meek.[5] Consequently, the phrase in Matthew 5:3, “poor in spirit” appears to be a direct  translation of the word, poor, in Hebrew, which has a wider significance in Hebrew than in Greek or Spanish or English.

The Kingdom of Heaven (2X). In the Hebrew language, the covenantal name of God (YHWH) is holy and can only be used in a worship service. In other contexts, phrases such as “the Lord”, “The Name” or “The Kingdom of Heaven” are substituted out of respect for the holiness of the name of God.

After all this analysis, it is accordingly possible to interpret the First Beatitude as saying: God blesses those that are humble or, more appropriately, God blesses those that make space in their lives for him; because those that are humble have respect for other people, including God.

Being humble makes space for other people; as does forgiveness, grace, patience, generosity, mercy, compassion, and other fruits of the spirit.[6] All of the spiritual gifts make room in our lives for relationships, including our relationship with God.

In what ways can we make room for God in our lives? (2X)

Further Analysis

The idea of offering space for God in our lives (and, by implication, for other people) has a long tradition in the Bible. For example, the night after King Solomon had dedicated the first temple in Jerusalem, God said to him:

“if my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land.” (2 Chr 7:14)

Today which country needs this promise the most? (2X)

After the Beatitudes, later in the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said:

“Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.” (Matt 7:7 ESV)

If we offer more space in our lives to Christ, he promises to come into our lives and save us from our sins, our fears, our pains.

In what ways can we make room for God in our lives? (2X)

Closing Prayer

Let’s pray.

Almighty God, beloved Son, Ever-present Spirit, we praise you for your gracious love and consolation in times of pain and loss. Cleanse our hearts of the evil passions that lead us to sin and lead to violence against other people. In Jesus’ precious name, Amen.


[1]“Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God.” (Luke 6:20 ESV)


[3] μακάριος means “humans privileged recipient of divine favor” and can also mean “favored, blessed, fortunate, happy, privileged” (BDAG 4675, 2, 2a).

[4] The Luke’s Gospel, this Beatitude refers only to the poor (Lukes 6:20), but Matthew was an Apostle (and likely witness to the Sermon on the Mount) while Luke was a colleague of Paul and a Greek (and not a witness to the Sermon).

[5] “poor,afflicted,humble,meek” (BDB 7238).

[6] “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. (Gal 5:22-23)


Bauer, Walter (BDAG). 2000. A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature. 3rd ed. ed. de Frederick W. Danker. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. <BibleWorks. v .9.>.

Brown-Driver-Briggs-Gesenius (BDB). 1905. Hebrew-English Lexicon, unabridged.

Continue Reading

Dichosos Los Pobres En Espíritu

Art by Sharron Beg, Clothesline
Art by Sharron Beg (

Dichosos Los Pobres En Espíritu

Por Stephen W. Hiemstra,

Almuerzo para el Alma, Miércoles, 15 de Junio, 2016, Iglesia Presbiteriana de Trinidad, Herndon, Virginia


Buenos tarde. Bienvenido al Almuerzo para el Alma. Mi nombre es Stephen Hiemstra. Soy un voluntario pastoral de la Iglesia Presbiteriano de Centreville y también un autor cristiano.

Nuestro mensaje de hoy enfoca en una pregunta: ¿de cuál manera podemos hacer espacio en nuestras vidas para Dios? (2X)


Vamos a orar.

Padre celestial. Gracias por tu presencia entre nosotros esta mañana. Gracias que tu palabra todavía mueva nuestras corazones y estimula nuestras mentes. Haga tu presencia especialmente claro en este momento y este lugar. En el poder de tu Espíritu Santa, abran nuestros ojos y danos oídos que oyen. En el nombre de Jesucristo, Amen.


El texto de hoy viene del evangelio de Mateo 5:3. Eso es la primera beatitud y una parte de la introducción del sermón de la montaña. Escuchan la palabra de Dios:

“Dichosos los pobres en espíritu, porque el reino de los cielos les pertenece.” (Mateo 5:3 NVI)[1]

La palabra del Senior.  Gracias a Dios.


En Octubre de 2014, fui invitado a ofrecer comentario sobre mi libro, Una Guía Cristiana a la Espiritualidad, en la Mezquita de Mubarak en Chantilly, Virginia por el día de Eid.[2] En el calendario musulmán, Eid es un día tan santo como pascua en el calendario cristiano y celebran el sacrificio de Abraham de su hijo Isaac por medio de sus propios sacrificios de animales domésticos, como ovejas.

Yo fui muy nervioso sobre esta invitación. ¿Cómo cristiano, que debería decir sobre la fe cristiana a un grupo de musulmanes? Entonces, durante los tres días antes Eid, empecé a un periodo de oración y ayuno, y pedí a Dios cual debiera decir a los musulmanes. Dios me respondió a esta oración, pero no dijo nada sobre mi invitación. En lugar y mucho mejor, Dios me dio la inspiración para escribir un nuevo libro, La Vida en Tensión, que voy a publicar más tarde en este verano.

Este ejemplo de la oración contestada, pasé tres días en oración y ayuno. En esta manera, yo estaba abierta a oír una palabra de Dios y Dios respondió.

¿De cuál manera podemos hacer espacio en nuestras vidas para Dios? (2X)


Nuestro texto de hoy tiene una otra repuesta a esta pregunta, pero el texto es un poco más interesante y también complicado en el contexto de la biblia. Escuchan el texto de hoy otra vez:

“Dichosos los pobres en espíritu, porque el reino de los cielos les pertenece.” (Mateo 5:3)

Cada palabra en esta beatitud es interesante por razones diferentes como vamos a ver.

Dichosos (2X)

El Nuevo Testamento fue escrito originalmente en el lenguaje griego y el griego para dichosos (la palabra μακάριος) significa: “del favor, bendiciones, fortuna, alegría (o gozo), y privilegio”.[3] En el Antiguo Testamento el uso más famoso parece en Salmo 1 donde es escrito:

“Dichoso el hombre que no sigue el consejo de los malvados, ni se detiene en la senda de los pecadores ni cultiva la amistad de los blasfemos sino que en la ley del SEÑOR se deleita, y día y noche medita en ella.” (Ps 1:1-2).

Entonces, muchas veces se dice que dichosos significa más honra o bendiciones, ni solamente gozo y alegría.

Los Pobres En Espíritu (2X)

Se encuentra esta expresión en ningún otro lugar en la biblia,[4] pero explica mejor la significancia del frase en Isaías 61:1 donde se escrita:

“El Espíritu del SEÑOR omnipotente está sobre mí, por cuanto me ha ungido para anunciar buenas nuevas a los pobres. Me ha enviado a sanar los corazones heridos, a proclamar liberación a los cautivos y libertad a los prisioneros…” (Isa 61:1)

Pobre aquí significa “los corazones heridos”, “los cautivos”, y “los prisioneros” muy cerca del sentido de la frase de Mateo: los pobres en espíritu”.

Más importante en el entendimiento de la palabra “pobre” es que en hebreo, que estaba la lengua del Antiguo Testamento, significa también “afligidos, humilde, manso”.[5] Entonces, la frase en Mateo 5:3, “los pobres en espíritu” parece como una traducción directamente de la palabra “pobre” en hebreo que tiene un significado más amplio en hebreo que en griego o español o inglés.

El Reino De Los Cielos (2X)

En la lengua hebreo, el nombre de pacto  de Dios (YHWH) es santo y pude ser usar solamente en un servicio de alabanzas. En otros contextos, se usen frases, como el señor, “el nombre, o el reino del cielo por respeto a la santidad del nombre de Dios.

Después todo este análisis, eso es posible a interpretar la primera beatitud como diciendo: Dios bendiga los que son humildad o, más apropiado, Dios bendiga los que hacen espacio en la vida para él; porque los que son humildad tienen respeto para otras personas, incluso Dios.

La humildad hace espacio para otras personas; también el perdón, la gracia, la paciencia, la generosidad, la misericordia, la compasión, y otras frutas del espíritu.[5] Todos los dones espirituales hacen espacio en nuestras vidas para relaciones, incluso relaciones con Dios.

¿En cuál manera podemos hacer espacio en nuestras vidas para Dios? (2X)

Más Análisis

Esta idea de ofrecer espacio para Dios (y, por implicación, otras personas) tiene una tradición antigua en la biblia. Por ejemplo, la noche después el rey Solomon había dedicado el primero templo en Jerusalén Dios le dijo:

“Si mi pueblo, que lleva mi nombre, se humilla y ora, y me busca y abandona su mala conducta, yo lo escucharé desde el cielo, perdonaré su pecado y restauraré su tierra.” (2 Chr 7:14)

¿Cuál país hoy necesita esta promesa el más? (2X)

Después las beatitudes, más tarde en el sermón de la montaña, Jesús dijo:

“Pidan, y se les dará; busquen, y encontrarán; llamen, y se les abrirá.” (Mateo 7:7)

Si nosotros ofrecer más espacio en nuestras vidas a Cristo, el promete a venir en nuestras vidas y sálvanos de nuestras pecados, nuestros miedos, nuestras dolores.

En cuál manera podemos hacer más espacio en nuestras vidas para Dios.(2X)

Oración Para Terminar


Dios todopoderoso, amado hijo, omnipresente Espíritu, alabamos por tu gracioso amor y consolación en tiempos de dolor y pérdida. Limpia nuestros corazones de las pasiones malvadas que nos llevan a pecar y lidera a violencia contra otras personas. En el precioso nombre de Jesús, amen.

[1]“Dichosos ustedes los pobres, porque el reino de Dios les pertenece.” (Lukas 6:20 NVI)


[3] μακάριος means “humans privileged recipient of divine favor” and can also mean “favored, blessed, fortunate, happy, privileged” (BDAG 4675, 2, 2a).

[4] En el evangelio de Lucas, esta bienaventuranza refiere solamente a los “pobres” (Lucas 6:20), pero Mateo era apóstol de cristo (y testigo del sermón de las montañas) mientras Lucas era un colegio de Paul y griego (y no testigo del sermón de las montañas).

[5] “poor,afflicted,humble,meek” (BDB 7238).

[6] “En cambio, el fruto del Espíritu es amor, alegría, paz, paciencia, amabilidad, bondad, fidelidad, humildad y dominio propio. No hay ley que condene estas cosas.” (Gal 5:22-23)


Bauer, Walter (BDAG). 2000. A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature. 3rd ed. ed. de Frederick W. Danker. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. <BibleWorks. v .9.>.

Brown-Driver-Briggs-Gesenius (BDB). 1905. Hebrew-English Lexicon, unabridged.

Vea También:

Dichosos los que Tiene Hambre y Sed 

La Espiritualidad Cristiana 

Otras Métodos de Conectar:

Author site:, Publisher site:

Newsletter at:

Continue Reading

Results of Book Cover Survey

Book Covers by Stephen W. Hiemstra
Book Covers by Stephen W. Hiemstra

By Stephen W. Hiemstra

Thank you!

I want to thank all of you that participated in my book cover survey over the past week.  The survey is now the second most popular posting on since the blog was established in September 2013.

Who Participated?

Twenty-four people (24) completed the survey.  Everyone responding said that they speak English at home, but about 10 percent live outside the U.S. Slightly more than half of respondents (54%) were male.

Surprisingly, about that many (54%) also listed their age as under 30 years old.  Another 37% were over the age of 50—the demographic profile of most people attending church these days.  About the same number of people (71%) as in national surveys cited their religion as Christian.  The other affiliations cited were Other (21%) and Not Sure (8%).

Survey Results

The most popular choice (57%) of respondents was the Hagia Sophia book cover (1).  The second place honor was pretty evenly split among the other 3 book covers.

Rankings suggest that the Path book cover (2) was actually everyone’s second choice; the Blue Leather cover was third choice; and the Postmodern cover was the last choice.  However, this result looks suspiciously like a survey weakness because the rankings mirror the order of the covers presented in the survey.

Seventy-eight percent (78%) prefer a paperback book.  Respondents were evenly split in their preferences for electronic and hardback books.

Comments Received on the Book Covers

A total of 20 comments were received from respondents and they serve as an interpretative lens on survey numbers.

In the comments below, the numbers cited in parentheses are the ages of the respondents.  The age diversity of the different covers is truly striking.  It would be hard to anticipate the distribution of ages of respondents and religion affiliations favoring particular covers.

Hagia Sophia:

  • As a Catholic, I am drawn to icons and today, with a severe muscle spasm, I have a serious attitude, which this cover portrays. On other days, I might like the path cover. I like covers #1, 2 and 4, but not the plain blue leather, which seems noncommittal. Spirituality is perhaps the most crucial aspect of our lives and that cover seems bland. The postmodern cover is nice, but is it too busy – trying to include too much? Overall, 3 of the 4 covers are excellent in my opinion (51 to 60).
  • The cover is right in tune with the thesis of the book (61+).
  • This clearly gives the potential reader the subject matter from afar and looks great and clean (21 to 30).
  • It is a common Byzantine Christian icon, by showing the figure of Christ himself it makes the content seem important. Therefore, before you open the book the viewer is under the assumption that the material is profound (21 to 30).
  • I have always loved this one (21 to 30).
  • “Jumps out at you the most”. It is clear that it is a Christian book (51 to 60).
  • Looks more interesting and has depth (21 to 30).
  • It caught my eye as a religious book before I read the title (61+).
  • It is peaceful and meditative. The colors have such depth (61+).


  • Although the lettering is more difficult to read than the first. This cover looks more modern. An appealing book cover that looks up to date may go a long way to opening it (1-20).
  • Non suggestive. A cover anyone would see and want to know what the book is about (21 to 30).
  • This image creates a relatable book cover for all walks of life (1-20).

Blue Leather:

  • It’s a classic type of cover, not too simple and not too busy. All the other ones are too old fashion (21 to 30).
  • Hey Steves. I just asked a group of people what they thought and they liked the blue 2:1 (21 to 30).
  • It’s very simple (21 to 30).
  • I like simplicity (41 to 50).


  • I like the blend of images which seems to say that there are many forms spirituality can take, not just one, even as we affirm there is one God (61+).
  • Looks the most unassuming. Blue Leather and Hagia Sophia look too pious. Path isn’t bad but I just prefer Postmodern (21 to 30).
  • Blends ancient and modern (61+).
  • It’s a nice collage and very inviting to the eye (51 to 60).


As I drafted this survey, I had two questions on my mind.

  • Which book cover is most popular?
  • How should I match book covers to alternative editions of the book?

Clearly, the Hagia Sophia is the most popular book cover surveyed.  The only caveat to this conclusion is that because I have used the Hagia Sophia in association to the book in my postings, perhaps the survey is simply picking up this association—a kind of survey bias.  Setting this possibility aside, matching the Hagia Sophia cover to the paperback edition—the most popular cover and most popular edition—is an obvious conclusion.

Less obvious are how to choose covers for the electronic and possibly hardcover versions of the book.  The preference of young people for the Blue Leather cover may not, for example, match up well because blue leather is also more-expensive.  The use of the Postmodern cover on an electronic edition, by contrast, might make sense.

This survey was done online using SurveyMonkey (

Background on the Book Covers

The Hagia Sophia cover ( is a 12th century mosaic found in the Church of the Holy Wisdom in Istanbul, Turkey.  Hagia Sophia is Greek for holy wisdom.  The image that I have been using is licensed from iStock (

The Path cover is a photograph that I took on my IPhone 5 after a snow storm on March 6, 2014.  It shows the portion of Popular Tree Road in Centreville, VA which was cut off with the construction of Route 28 and turned into a part of Ellanor C. Lawrence park (

The Blue Leather cover was modeled after a number of denominational hymnals sitting on my bookshelf.

The Postmodern cover builds on the idea of a collage which is a stereotypical postmodern art form.  Articles on how to draw books covers often advise prospective artists to illustrate non-verbally the contents of your book which is easy with a collage.

The drawing on the Postmodern cover depicts Jesus’ baptism in Matthew 3:16:  And when Jesus was baptized, immediately he went up from the water, and behold, the heavens were opened to him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming to rest on him.  The image shows a hint of a dove (>), a hint of clouds on either side, a hint of sun beams, and a hint of a stream with Jesus (+) parting the water.

FYI.  Check out my first You-Tube video (Welcome to!)

Results of Book Cover Survey


Continue Reading