“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” – Matthew 4:3
Poverty, true poverty, is something that most of us in America have never experienced. Many that Jesus spoke to, however, knew the desperation of poverty, the helplessness, the gnawing hunger, and the total lack of resources. So maybe the multitude that heard Jesus pronounce that the pour in spirit are blessed, picked up on what may elude us. Those who are desperate for God, those who know that they are helpless without Him, those who cry out for true spiritual food, those who look to God for all that they need are the blessed ones. Why? Because theirs is the kingdom of God. Their spiritual poverty drives them to find God, to believe in Him, to trust in Him, and to fully yield to His Lordship. They are willing subjects to the King, and the King cares for His own. They find true riches in His Kingdom.
So, in what way is this idea upside down? It clearly stands in contrast with the world’s values. In Jesus’ day, as in ours, it is the wealthy, the powerful, the gifted, and the famous who are considered blessed. They don’t have to worry about where their next meal is coming from. They have everything that they could possibly need or want and then some. People respect them. They have influence. They don’t think that they need God – He is irrelevant to them.
But on a deeper level I think Jesus was contrasting the poor in spirit with the rich in religion – those who think that they have all their spiritual ducks in a row. Like the Scribes and the Pharisees of Jesus’ day, those who believe right doctrine, who go to church, read their Bibles, pray, tithe, fast, and don’t commit the big sins. Have you been there? I have. At times I’ve lost that spiritual desperation, that deep hunger for God. Recognizing that we have strayed from being poor in spirit is half the battle. God so graciously, so mercifully draws us back to Himself: renewing our hearts, bringing us again to the place where we can say with the psalmist, “Whom have I in heaven but thee, and what is there on earth that I desire besides thee.” – Psalm 73:25