The Blessing of Spiritual Poverty
The Gospel According to Matthew 5:3
“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”
A quick and thoughtless reading of this teaching from Jesus should stump you. It almost does not make any sense without some processing. For passages like this, I like to utilize a little deconstruction and take things piece by piece so that I can put it back together in a way that resonates with meaning. In this case, I want to suggest that we start at the end and work our way to the beginning.
The Kingdom of Heaven
Jesus likes to use this phrase, especially in Matthew. While there are various meanings, let’s start with the most simple. What is a kingdom? It is a domain ruled by a king. Here is a reality, the character of the king will always shape the culture of the kingdom. If your king is selfish, rude, fat, and forces his subjects to give in to his every desire or face pain of death, well, you’ve got a pretty jacked up kingdom you’re living in. The culture will stink from the throne room to the back alleys. If your king is benevolent, compassionate, concerned for the welfare of his subjects, applies justice with a dose of grace and mercy, that’s where we all want to live. The people of that kingdom will be inclined to mirror those traits. It is an honorable kingdom.
If the character of the king shapes the culture of the kingdom, then God, the King of Heaven andEarth, rules in a domain that is saturated with love, justice, mercy, truth, and grace. It is a Gospel-Kingdom. And this is exactly the Kingdom of Heaven that is offered to us in Jesus. This is a Kingdom we all long to be part of.
The Poor in Spirit
What does this phrase mean? Perhaps considering its opposite will assist us? A person rich in spirit will be a person who thinks and believes that he or she has it all together. Life is good. They’re living a life that is the envy of others. They don’t live in terms of thinking that they need anything because, for the most part, they already have everything and if they need it, well, they just go out and get it.
In contrast, the poor in spirit feel inadequate and they have lots of things to point to for this. They know they are not measuring up. They don’t have it all together. They tend to make things worse, not better even when they have all the right answers to life’s questions. The big deal is they are a mess, its their fault, and they know it. They wish things would be better, but that's going to have to come by some miracle.
Jesus qualifies that only those that know they are a mess, that don’t have it all together, that demonstrate a great need for grace and mercy - these people possess and belong in God’s Kingdom and as a result, will live in happiness. A blessing is something that is not earned but experienced as a by product of outside influences. We don’t claim something as a blessing when we believe we’ve earned it. We claim a blessing when it comes as an unexpected experience. We know we don’t deserve it, therefore its a blessing.
Here is the truth, only those who can admit that they are a mess (poor in spirit) are capable of getting in on the happiness of the kingdom, where God’s love, grace, and mercy thrive. People who think they’ve got it all together don’t enjoy God’s love, grace, and mercy all that much, because they think they deserve it. So, if you want to really start enjoying what God has to offer us in Christ, you’d do well to get real honest about how needy you really are.