“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”
“Compelled by Love” is a book written by Heidi Baker, a missionary in Mozambique, Africa. She found it hard to understand the beatitudes, for she found it abstract. However, when she served in Africa, she saw what it is truly meant to be poor in spirit in the lives of the oppressed and orphaned children. Because they knew what it was like to be oppressed and poor physically, they could translate it to their spiritual poverty and cling onto God for dependence like how they would cling onto any source of hope for a better life. Do we then have to be physically poor before we can truly understand what the first beatitude means?
Jesus does not arrange these beatitudes randomly. The first beatitude, the poor in spirit, is the one which must come at the beginning because there is no entry into the kingdom of God apart from it. All other characteristics are in a sense the result of this one. Being poor in spirit is an emptying, while the other beatitudes are a manifestation of a fullness. We cannot be filled until we are first empty. When we look at the first beatitude it seems that the Kingdom of God belongs to the weak and the outcast of the world rather than to the wealthy and the powerful. But, the kingdom does not belong to the poor just because they are poor, but it belongs to all who humble their spirits before God. To be poor in spirit is to not cling on to worldly values. So, if poor people are jealous of the rich, then they are not poor in spirit.
What God is concerned about here is the spirit – the poverty of spirit. God will be with the one with a humble spirit. You can see the stark contrast in the teaching of this beatitude and the teachings of the world. We are taught to believe in self-reliance. Thousands of dollars are spent on self motivation talks about how to believe in yourself. However, we are from a different kingdom with a sharp distinction.
Being poor in spirit is a confession of a man’s need for God, admitting that we are nothing without Him. If we are truly believers, we will not rely upon ourselves. We will not rely upon the fact that we belong to certain families or boast that we belong to certain nations or nationalities. We will not rely on any wealth we may have nor boast about the education we have received. All these Paul have regarded as rubbish and a hindrance to the work of God because it could have been a source of distraction to him.
It is sad, to boast of things that are artificial, that will count as nothing in the great day when we stand in the presence of God. It is to know that we are nothing, we have nothing, and that we look to God in utter submission and dependence upon Him and His grace and mercy.
The way to be poor in spirit is to look at God – read His Word and look at what He expects from us as we stand before Him. Look at Jesus and see Him as we see Him in the gospels. The more we look at Him, the more hopeless we will feel about ourselves and the more we become poor in spirit.
We must realize that we cannot do anything based on our own strength. We cannot fulfill God’s standards ourselves. We must come to him and acknowledge our spiritual bankruptcy, empting ourselves of our self righteousness and self glory. Emptied of these, we are ready for Him to fill us.
Only then will we be worthy to have the kingdom of God. Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.