Happy Are The Poor In Spirit
February 23rd, 2015 | John Chandler
My original hope for this post was that I could bring something clearly tangible for you to take away from this passage. That I could come up with the best way to explain it. After spending the last few days reading and thinking I have ended up with more questions than answers. I am ok with that. So I will give you a place to start, a place to approach it from. Here it goes-
“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”
Here are some of the interpretations that seem to be pretty popular these days.
It’s about privation or doing exactly as the 12 disciples did.
It’s about giving up or giving away your belongings.
It’s about the renunciation of self interest.
It’s about giving up self-reliance to depend fully on God.
It’s about declaring your spiritual bankruptcy.
I may have missed some interpretations but on the whole I feel like this is a good reflection of some ways this passage has been taught to me. Today I am going to propose something slightly different because my thought is that it would be pretty impractical for all of us to live by one single interpretation of this passage. I don’t think God intends for us to be monotone and we are all in different places. What is good and life giving for you may not be so for me and vice versa.
So maybe what this beatitude, being poor in spirit, means is that we are open to the probability that God will ask something of us and that we will be ready to respond- even when the response required is uncomfortable, when it means I need to ask for help, when it means I need give of my possessions, money, and time. Looks likes the Lent challenge is on.
Bonhoeffer in The Cost Of Discipleship makes a great point that I want to remind us of, because I think is easy to get wrapped up in the “correct” action and loose sight of the heart.
“The error lies in looking for some kind of human behavior as the ground for the beatitude instead of the call and promise of Jesus alone.”
So in the light of this quote what should our posture be towards this beatitude? I definitely don’t think you should pick something off the list and try to force it.
It happens by engaging our minds in thought and by engaging our spirits in prayer. Ask Jesus to show you how to be poor in spirit. Ask him what it requires of you. Wait and listen and be prepared to respond to the call of Jesus, whatever it may be.
I need to be honest with all of you now. This first beatitude is kinda intense. I like to be comfortable. I am kinda nervous about carrying this out in my own life. So this Lent I must pray more. I must ask Jesus for strength that I can respond to the calls he makes of me.
As I wrap this up, I would like to make one last note. In the greek writing of this passage blessed is also translated to mean happy.
Madeleine L’Engle says this,
“But the happiness offered to us by the Beatitudes in not material; it is more spiritual than physical, internal than external; and there is an implication which I find very exciting that the circle of blessing is completed only when man blesses God, that God’s blessing does not return to him empty.”
So what is the end result of living out the first beatitude. It is happiness and blessing. Not material but spiritual. When we respond to the call of Jesus we get to see his promises’ fulfilled. When we choose to be poor in spirit, we see the kingdom of heaven. We get to take an active role in God’s work and we get to experience that truly real happiness and then we are blessed.
For those blessings, my only thought is don’t forget to say thank you!
“Happy are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”