Text: Matthew 5:3, Ephesians 2:1-10, Revelation 3:17-22
“He only who is reduced to nothing in himself, and relies on the mercy of God, is poor in spirit.”
When we were first married, we spent half a year working for a company after they stopped paying us. We had signed a contract for a year, but halfway in they came upon hard times, and the paychecks just stopped. We were committed to the project, had a little money saved up, and didn’t really know what to do, so we finished the contract.
Now that we are older, a little less idealistic, and more laden with responsibilities, we probably wouldn’t be able to manage that. Granted, the word “poor” is relative, and short of insurmountable homeless starvation, we’re all holding on okay. But during that particular season, we were poor.
I don’t like to be poor. I don’t even like to feel poor.
Money is an insulation from the world. We use it to keep from feeling hungry, cold, and sad. Strength and power insulate us, too—all these things give us the illusion that we are in control. But the “poor in spirit” are those who have no power; they are the demoralized, the dejected. They can be fiscally poor, or lonely, or rejected; but regardless, they have lost all hope of finding power in themselves.
In the eyes of the world, the poor in spirit are the lowest of the low. People who can’t help themselves, or people who don’t believe in themselves, must not deserve all the good things life has to offer, we reason. We put so much value on hard work and grit that the poor in spirit are the most undervalued members of society.
But that’s the upside down version. The world is upside down, but Christ sets things right again. When He said “the last shall be first,” He meant it (Matthew 20:16). The poor in spirit have nothing, but that nothingness empties them of the illusion of their own power, enabling them to rely wholly on God. And to those who totally rely on Him, God gives the earth as an inheritance. He doesn’t promise that they’ll conquer the earth in their own power, somehow taking it for themselves; they will inherit the earth. For the meek, the earth will come to them gently, naturally, like a bequest. The world is upside down, but God sets it upright again.
In an unexpected way, we suddenly have reason to be grateful for the absence of paychecks, the blindsiding blows, and the losses that reduce us to emptiness. Poverty of the heart forces us to rely on the mercy of God. Jesus says they are “blessed” and “happy” who find themselves poor in spirit. Without our insulating security we have no refuge but God, and that blessed contradiction is a glimpse of what earth will look like, right side up, as it is heaven (Matthew 6:10).