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Beatitude #1: Blessed are the Poor in Spirit.
All of us feel messed up sometimes . . . like we’re not good enough. Or maybe our life is seriously out-0f-whack and we don’t know what to do about it. Or what about the Seattle cold case that just made the news . . . the 66 year old man arrested two weeks ago for a horrific crime against a child? How messed up is that?! (More on this later.)
For all of us, Jesus has some surprisingly good news:
“Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:3, NKJV).
I don’t know about you, but this “poor in spirit” business befuddled me for years. And this was the opening line of the greatest sermon of all time, so I was told.
Not only does it make sense, it’s excellent news.
Even if my life’s a total mess, that’s a blessing? Yes.
And the kingdom of heaven is mine? Yes.
Like a Helpless Beggar
It turns out the Hebrew term translated as “poor” is derived from a word that means “to crouch as a helpless beggar.” Being poor in spirit means that we realize we are spiritually bankrupt compared to God. Empty pockets. All debts and no assets.
Wow. Don’t you feel better already?
Let’s think of it this way: are we not blessed when we recognize what we are compared to God? Are we not opening our eyes to an eternally-significant reality? Should we not look in the mirror of truth? Have we not started on wisdom’s path when we see how little good we can do on our own?
Truly, we are blessed when we take the first step to look for God’s help. The real wealth—eternal wealth—starts with recognizing our poverty and humbly looking to him who has bank vaults full and overflowing with spiritual riches. This is the key! It is the place to start.
God rejoices at the humble souls who think with integrity:
“Spiritual things don’t make sense to me. And I have bad habits that I know I should stop. I think there’s still hope for me, but I’m not sure if God even wants to deal with me. Maybe there is a God. I honestly don’t know.”
Imagine. Head down, humbled, worried, doubtful, yet a glimmer of hope. The key to it all, in the words of Billy Graham, is the humility:
“We must not be self-satisfied or proud in our hearts, thinking we don’t really need God. If we are, God cannot bless us. The Bible says, ‘God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble’ (James 4:6).”
What if I Don’t Feel Poor in Spirit?
We may think we’re just fine as we are. Maybe Billy Graham’s words just bounce off.
We’re possibly comparing ourselves to the people around us, thinking we’re just as “good” or better than they are. “I don’t act like so and so,” we think. “She’s a terrible mother to those poor kids.” Or, “So and so is hitting on other women at work—and with a wife at home!”
This person cusses too much. That person is a liar. The neighbor drinks too much. My mother-in-law is heartless. The school board president is out for herself. On and on.
And then we comfort ourselves. “I don’t act like that. I’m nice to other people. I’m good enough. I don’t feel poor in spirit.”
Self-justification is the easiest trick in the book—but it’s soul-cheating, self-deception.
Oh, the blessed and enlightened day when we understand this important truth!
We all do some things well and some things not so well. But true and eternal goodness can only be defined by God. It’s not defined by the world around us.
The world’s standard of good changes all the time and it’s always short of the perfect goodness of God. Millions of miles short.
The Other Extreme—A Child Molester and Murderer
And how about the person arrested for a cold case murder last week? If he truly did commit that crime, should he have the “audacity” to look to God in hope?
“On Friday, June 22, 2018, Gary Hartman, 66, of Lakewood, was charged with . . . murder, Q13 Fox reported. He worked as a nurse specialist at a psychiatric hospital.”
The case had gone unsolved for 32 years. This man was living “on the outside” for 32 years.
Imagine committing an unthinkably cruel, dark crime and spending the next 32 years trying to act like a normal citizen. Like a normal employee who actually attends to the needs of others in a psych hospital. A decent neighbor, perhaps? A friend to some, probably?
And a child of God. A beloved child of God, in fact.
Gary Hartman, currently in police custody, is a precious child of God—still deeply loved by God. Those are not just words.
This man may be a deeply disturbed predator with no remorse at all. But possibly, right now, Mr. Hartman is fearing the end of his life. He may have been tortured by guilt for years as he hid and pretended to be someone else yet daily, vividly remembered his hideous deed(s).
Hope for the Poor in Spirit
Whether we’re a murderer or a person who is judgmental and scornful toward the “lousy mother,” Jesus taught that it’s a blessing to see our weakness, our “badness,” our poorness—whatever you want to call it—as long as we start looking to him. We, the helpless beggars, can look with hope to the source of all good. (Learn more.)
You, dear reader, probably haven’t tortured and murdered anyone. But if you did, you must know with perfect assurance that Jesus’s statement does apply to you.
Each of us must have the audacity to take God at his word, “who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth” (1 Timothy 2:4, NKJV, bold added).
Remember from the first post in this series that all eight of the beatitudes are as one. They are a series and must be viewed together. It’s implied, therefore, that being poor in spirit leads one to look to God and not just sit in a hopeless heap with nowhere to go.
So, Now What? What Can We Do?
We accept that we are messed up. We fall short of the perfection of God (and that matters).
We accept our weakness as a fact, but not in a wallowing or “so what” way.
We recognize our brokenness and poverty as a blessing because that’s the very thing that draws us to God for help—the spiritual Banker will all the dough!
Finally, we can talk to God, not only as a beggar but as his son or daughter. Say something like, “Dear Father, I know I have issues. You expect better from me. I want to be more like you. Help me, please. Help me find my way.”
I promise he will answer. He will begin pulling you to him. He will place helpful resources in your path. Recognize them and use them. Keep talking to God. Step on the first rung and enter the ladder into the kingdom of heaven.
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