What does it mean to be broken before God?


Psalm 51:17 – The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.

Isaiah 57:15 – For thus says the One who is high and lifted up, who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy: “I dwell in the high and holy place, and also with him who is of a contrite and lowly spirit, to revive the spirit of the lowly, and to revive the heart of the contrite.

Isaiah 66:2 – All these things my hand has made, and so all these things came to be, declares the LORD. But this is the one to whom I will look: he who is humble and contrite in spirit and trembles at my word.

To be broken before God (spiritual poverty) is to be humbled under a sense of one’s sin. This person recognizes the seriousness of his sin before God and is filled with Godly sorrow which leads to repentance, (2 Corinthians 7:10). He is moved by the Spirit of God to see the futility of his works in pleasing God, repents of his sin, and believe in Jesus.

As D.A. Carson writes, “Poverty of spirit is the personal acknowledgment of spiritual bankruptcy. It is the conscious confession of unworth before God. As such, it is the deepest form of repentance….From within such a framework, poverty of spirit becomes a general confession of a man’s need for God, a humble admission of impotence without him.”[1]

Matthew 5:3 “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” God’s kingdom only belongs to those who are poor and broken in spirit. This is because people need to  understand the extent of their sinfulness before they run to God for salvation. As Proverbs 19:7 writes, “The law of the LORD is perfect, converting the soul…” (KJV) The law of God exposes man’s sin and demonstrates the futility of his “good” works before God; driving him to God in spiritual poverty so that he can be saved by faith in Jesus Christ.

The blessing that follows those who see their spiritual poverty is that they will hunger after Christ and inherit the promise of the kingdom of heaven where they will be made heirs of an eternal glory prepared for them in complete union with Christ.

[1] D. A. Carson, Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, p. 18.


Carson, D.A., Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount; Global Christian Publishers, 1999.

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