Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Matthew 5:3
Who are the “poor in spirit”? What does that even mean? Are they depressed? Are they weak spiritually? It’s an odd term.
In his gospel, Luke just says, “blessed are you who are poor” (Luke 6:20). We understand “poor,” so let’s start there. There are a lot of different reasons why people are poor. We are not going to explore all of that today. Let’s consider poverty in its purest form, if you will.
The advantage of the poor is that they’re disadvantaged. The poor have no wealth. The poor have no power. The poor have no influence. Most people in the United States are among the wealthiest people in the world. If you don’t know where you rank, check out this Wealth Calculator (http://www.globalrichlist.com/). (If you earn only $2,000 per year, you are in the Top 20% of the world’s richest people).
Here’s why the poor are blessed: the poor cannot help themselves and must depend on God. Their survival depends on reliance on God. They are not self-made, they are unmade. They have fewer encumbrances in life. They don’t worry about their cell phone reception or their air conditioning. They don’t have either.
Don’t get me wrong here. It’s not more spiritual to be poor and less spiritual to be wealthy. Christians become confused and carry some unnecessary guilt over this. Jesus did challenge the rich young ruler: “If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me” (Matthew 19:21).
This was a loaded statement.
First of all, none of us can achieve perfection, but the rich young ruler thought that was the path to eternal life (Matthew 19:16-20). Jesus was simply pointing out that legalism doesn’t lead to righteousness.
Secondly, the implication here is that the rich young ruler trusted in his wealth and his ability to create wealth more than he trusted in God. If he could obey the Law and provide for his needs, why did he even need God? He didn’t.
Now, if you are wealthy and successful, don’t get discouraged. After all, Jesus adds “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible” (Matthew 19:26).
The whole matter does not involve what you have or what you don’t have. The bottom line is who or what you depend on for your well-being. How big of a deal do you consider yourself to be? Are you the king of the world? Maybe it’s time to resign and to realize that there is very little that you can actually control. Oh, you can drive yourself nuts trying to control everything. (“Hi, my name is Allen, and I’m a recovering control freak.”) You and I must realize that we are not in control, but God is in control.
Whether your life is up and to the right or in the red, your circumstances can change very quickly. Some have seen that happen in the last few years. And, there’s nothing that you could have done to change that.
To acknowledge that you are not in control and that you must depend on God is to be poor in spirit. To recognize that you cannot control anyone or anything and that God has control over all is to be poor in spirit. Not financially poor, but poor “in spirit.” The poor in spirit live as though their entire lives are solely dependent on God and His goodness toward them. Well resourced or overdrawn, we’re all in the same boat.
As we learn to depend fully on God, we receive something that we could never acquire or achieve: the Kingdom of God – in this present world and in the world to come.
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