To understand Jesus' statement we must first understand its context. Here are the verses just prior to Jesus' statement:
One of those days Jesus went out to a mountainside to pray, and spent the night praying to God. When morning came, he called his disciples to him and chose twelve of them, whom he also designated apostles: Simon (whom he named Peter), his brother Andrew, James, John, Philip, Bartholomew, Matthew, Thomas, James son of Alphaeus, Simon who was called the Zealot, Judas son of James, and Judas Iscariot, who became a traitor. He went down with them and stood on a level place. A large crowd of his disciples was there and a great number of people from all over Judea, from Jerusalem, and from the coast of Tyre and Sidon, who had come to hear him and to be healed of their diseases. Those troubled by evil spirits were cured, and the people all tried to touch him, because power was coming from him and healing them all. Looking at his disciples, he said: "Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God." (Luke 6:13-20)Here we can see that Jesus' power and authority came from the Supreme Being, as he prayed in private prior to his sermons and healings.
We can also see that Jesus had many disciples. A disciple is someone who has devoted his or her life to the teachings of their spiritual teacher. This process has been accepted amongst all scriptures of the world from ancient times, and this process was carried on by Jesus who was a disciple of John the Baptist, John who was a disciple of Zachariah, Solomon who was a disciple of David, David who was a disciple of Samuel, Samuel who was a disciple of Eli, Joshua who was a disciple of Moses, Jacob who was a disciple of Abraham and many in between.
We can also see from these verses that Jesus selected twelve disciples as "apostles."
Disciples versus apostles
Does this mean that Jesus' other disciples were not also given the wisdom of Jesus' teachings, and the ability to pass those teachings on to others? Certainly not. Any of Jesus' students, assuming they submitted themselves to the Supreme Being as Jesus instructed them, could be empowered to pass on Jesus' teachings.
Note also that Jesus' statement was directed at his disciples: Looking at his disciples, he said: "Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God."
This illustrates that even though Jesus had selected twelve to work closely with him, he was directing his teachings to all of his students.
This begs the question about the real role of the "twelve apostles". Were they really to be considered above Jesus' other disciples?
The word "apostle" here comes from the Greek word ἀπόστολος (apostolos), which means, according to the Greek lexicon, "a delegate, messenger, one sent forth with orders."
Since we know that Jesus had many other disciples, all of whom are being taught his teachings, and could thus pass those teachings on to others, we can know that this role of "apostle" is more of an administrative position.
It is not as if Jesus selected these disciples because God discriminates between people. We might, for example, consider Mary and her sister Martha, who were also disciples, yet they were women. They were also very close to Jesus as documented elsewhere - specifically in the raising of Lazarus - and yet they were not part of the twelve. Does this mean that Jesus did not consider women able to be teachers?
Certainly not. The twelve apostles, in fact, were students who were able to conduct business on behalf of Jesus. They were able to arrange for his speaking engagements and his meals and lodgings as they traveled from town to town. They were men because during those times men typically conducted business.
There is, in fact, evidence that after Jesus left this world, Mary Magdalene became a leading teacher among early Christianity. This notion was snuffed by the Roman-empire surrogates of the early church, as they tried to make Mary out to be a prostitute.
The fact is, the Supreme Being does not discriminate. He wants all of us back, regardless of the physical body we might wear. And He will also utilize any of His devoted servants, regardless of their temporary physical body, to pass on His message.
This leads us to Jesus' statement. Does God give more favor to those who have less money in the bank? Does having less money or possessions give us more rights to the spiritual realm?
What Jesus really meant by "poor"
This leads us to ask what Jesus meant by "poor" if indeed he said poor. Does "poor" mean having less than $5,000 in savings? Or less than $1,000? Or does it mean having no place to live? Or perhaps it means only having a 2-bedroom house instead of the 4-bedroom house?
Or perhaps it only means being homeless and having no job, or having a job that pays little or nothing? This would qualify an inmate in a penitentiary, thrown in jail for stealing or murdering someone as "yours is the kingdom of God." Does that make sense?
We have to accept that Jesus was not speaking of "poor" with respect to money. In fact, the word "poor" is being translated from the Greek word πτωχός (ptōchos), which relates to lacking in either wealth, influence, position, honor" according to the lexicon. This can either relate to a person's standings in society or "their spirit."
In other words, the word can relate to being humble either of means of wealth, or being humble in spirit. This latter context is the point of Jesus' statement. Jesus was speaking of humility.
Therefore, we can attest that this statement by Jesus has been grossly mistranslated. Its more appropriate translation - as reflected in the Gospels of Jesus - should be:
We can see that Jesus practiced humility himself from the excerpt above:
One of those days Jesus went out to a mountainside to pray, and spent the night praying to God.
Jesus exercised humility
Spending the night praying to God is an exercise of humility. The act of prayer is in itself humility. As we pray, we are committing ourselves in one respect or another to the Supreme Being as being Supreme, and being the subject of our honor and respect. True prayer - as opposed to prayers that simply ask for stuff as though God is our servant - requires humility.
Humility is the key to the spiritual realm because real love requires humility. Just consider what a man does when he has some glimpse of love for a woman: He will humbly go and buy her flowers or some gift. A man must have a little humility to buy a woman flowers. Or a father might go to a dance recital for his daughter. Would a typical man show up at a dance recital? Most men wouldn't be caught dead in a dance recital. Yet a father would show up, as his love for his daughter bears humility.
Love for the Supreme Being is greater than all these examples because a person must accept that God owns everything, and God controls everything. Where does that leave us? Can we claim "champion of the world" with this in mind? Can we proclaim our superiority when everything we have has been given to us by the Supreme Being?
For these reasons and more, Jesus was trying to teach all of his students humility. This was illustrated by those who were sick who humbled themselves before Jesus in order to be healed. And even those who were appointed as his special administrators - "apostles" - were not superior to anyone else. They were Jesus' servants, and they took care of his needs.
Not false humility
It is important to differentiate between false humility and the humility that Jesus was teaching. We know that some of Jesus' disciples were wealthy, such as Joseph of Arimathea, who arranged a tomb for Jesus' body. We know from this and other students that Jesus did not demand that people gave away their physical possessions - though he did test a particularly wealthy person one time.
If Jesus demanded that people give everything away, why did Jesus wear a robe? And why did he and his students wear sandals? After all, material possessions are relative.
Rather, Jesus wanted his students to offer whatever they had been given in this life to God, including their most valuable resources, time and energy.
This is the exercise of real humility according to Jesus' teachings and example.
In order to enter into the kingdom of God that Jesus offers to us, we must - regardless of our position in society and our relative wealth - become humble, knowing that everything comes from God, and that we are completely dependent upon the Supreme Being.