Those who are poor in spirit recognize the reality and truth of sin and their own inability to not sin or have a relationship with God because of sin. They understand depravity.
No one likes the word “depravity” any more than they like the word “sin.” “Depravity” describe better than any other word the complete inability of those bent by sin to change, by their own will and effort, and do anything pleasing and acceptable to God.
Notice what God says about those created in His image just before He sends the flood.
The LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. And the LORD regretted that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him to his heart. So the LORD said, “I will blot out man whom I have created from the face of the land, man and animals and creeping things and birds of the heavens, for I am sorry that I have made them.” (Gen. 6:5-7)
Sin is, in its essence, selfishness, the desire to control and covet that which uniquely belongs to God. Although there are many words which may describe sin and its corruption of humanity “depravity” captures the absolute extent of people’s rebellion against God.
What is depravity? It is corruption of that which was good making it evil. Anything which is made impure is considered depraved.
What are some of the observable characteristics of depravity?
First and foremost there is no love for God. God showed His supreme love for humanity by sending His Son as a sacrifice of atonement for sin. He did this because we could not atone for our own sin. Yet, no one is able and all are unwilling to show any love toward Him. He is rejected because in our selfishness and self-centeredness we prefer self to Him, pleasing self above and before Him.
Secondly, when confronted by God through His Spirit and called by Him, commanded by Him, to receive His Son, we show hatred toward Him. As long as He stays within the restrictions and boundaries of our imposed perception, as long as we think we can control Him, we may tolerate Him, and even show slight devotion to Him. Here is religion at its most worldly and basic level, to proclaim an illusion of god without embracing the real God.
Thirdly, since everything we do, think and feel, since our attitudes and motivations, are essentially selfish and self-centered, even self-righteous, we do nothing which pleases Him or meets His eternal standard.
Finally, we are constantly moving away from God into self, unable and unwilling to draw near to Him.
Make this personal. Writing and thinking in the abstract gives an impression of being absolved from the guilt which comes from rebellion to God. Thinking abstractly, in the “we” and not the concrete “I” allows us to control how we think and what we feel by losing ourselves in the larger community. Change your thinking from “we” to “I” and begin taking responsibility.
Those who are poor in spirit recognize their thinking and attachments are not upon God but on self. They understand a righteous God judges according to a righteous standard and all those in rebellion are facing His righteous judgment. They recognize the lie of self-righteousness and take responsibility for the thinking of their hearts toward God. They also learn quickly they can do nothing and must rely upon God’s grace and none of their works for all of their actions are done in rebellion.