After a lifetime of periodic reading through the Beatitudes, it hit me one day that I had no idea what they meant. Really. Starting right at the beginning.
"Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 5:3)
You’d think this verse referred to poverty. But poverty isn’t a blessing. To live in poverty is not to be blessed.
<Carol scratches her head in confusion.>
So then I wondered if this verse meant to be poor in spirituality. To not have enough faith. But why would having little faith make us blessed?
<Carol continues to scratch her head in confusion.>
What does make sense is that to be poor in spirit means to be humble. To be poor (lacking) in a prideful spirit. It means to realize that everything I am and everything I have comes from God’s grace. If I am poor in spirit, I am empty and ready to be filled by God. And when we are ready to be filled, God fills us.
<Carol stops scratching her head and pays attention.>
Poor in spirit means I realize I can’t achieve salvation on my own. Rather, I have to put complete faith in Jesus.
It means I realize I am completely unworthy of God’s mercy and grace. I am unqualified and unworthy to have fellowship with God.
It means I can only enter God’s kingdom when I accept grace through Jesus’ sacrifice. Only when I empty myself and accept that free gift.
<Carol notices a dim light bulb
shining above her well-scratched head.>
When I come to God, conscious of my sins and lack of righteousness, unqualified for fellowship with Him, undeserving of His gifts, without hope of salvation except through Jesus—that’s when I come poor in spirit. I am blessed because only then—through Jesus; not my own works—can I enter the kingdom of heaven.
So how do I apply this to real life? For many of us—read "me"—even though I know I can’t get to heaven on my own, I sometimes still try to do things in order to get heavenly brownie points.
<Carol peers sheepishly up at that light bulb.>
Brownie points are different from a God smile. A brownie point is something I can spiritually pin to my chest and point to. "Look, see what *I* did to get this from God?"
A God smile comes from simply pleasing God.
A God smile comes simply because He loves me.
Nope, seeking brownie points is not being poor in spirit. Learning not to seek brownie points but to seek a God smile is about learning the difference between righteousness and self-righteousness. And some days that lesson is kinda tough.
Who am I in Christ?
When I learn the lesson of the Beatitudes, I seek to answer with enthusiasm: I am poor in spirit!
<Carol wearing sunglasses because that light bulb is brilliant!>
PRAYER: Heavenly Father, we recognize that it is only through Jesus that we can enter your kingdom of heaven. Please forgive our pride and self-righteousness when we think we’re "all that." Please break our hearts to be poor in spirit. We can’t do this ourselves. Thank you for making a way for us so that we don’t have to try. Amen.
WHAT ABOUT YOU? In what area do you need to work on becoming poor in spirit?
NOTE: Just as I was planning, researching and writing for this series, my brother mentioned he was writing a series of articles for his church on the Beatitudes. His is more introspective than my little series. But reading through his thoughts and seeing how God has orchestrated both of us to write about these verses at the same time, has encouraged me take a much deeper look at my own attitude toward the Beatitudes.
Sometimes those deep looks are pretty painful as the Holy Spirit reveals things and then convicts us to repent and try again. I’m finding it painful to see how flawed I am in certain areas of life; and how much Jesus wants me to live more like Him. I hope you’ll join me in the process of looking deeply.