Of all the virtues Christ commended in the Beatitudes, it is significant that the first is humility, being ‘poor in spirit’ (Matthew 5:3). The virtue of humility (the blessed gift of self-forgetfulness) underlies all the others:
- You cannot mourn (5:4) without appreciating how insufficient you are to handle life in your own strength. That is humility.
- You cannot be meek (5:5) unless you have needed gentleness yourself. Knowing that need is humility.
- You cannot hunger and thirst for righteousness (5:6) if you proudly think of yourself as already righteous. Longing to fill that spiritual appetite demands humility. Remember Jesus’ parable when the humbled tax collector prayed, ‘God, be merciful to me a sinner!’ He went away justified, unlike a proud Pharisee who boasted of his righteousness (Luke 18:13).
- You cannot be merciful (Matt. 5:7) without recognizing your own need for mercy. Jesus said that it’s the person who is forgiven much that loves much (Luke 7:47). To confess your sin and ask God and others for forgiveness takes humility.
- You cannot be pure in heart (Matt. 5:8) if your heart is filled with pride. God promises to exalt the humble not the proud (James 4:10).
- You cannot be a peacemaker (Matt. 5:9) if you believe that you are always right. To admit your own fallibility takes humility. Peace results when both warring parties move toward one other.
- Finally, identifying with Christ no matter the reaction of others (5:10-12) demands a certain death to yourself and a renunciation of your own rights. Standing firm under mistreatment demands Christlike humility.