Seeing the crowds, He went up on the mountain, and when He sat down, his disciples came to him. And He opened his mouth and taught them, saying: “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Matthew 5:1-3
Day One: Last night’s living room conversation stretched out late and long, touching on many stories and many themes, but resting for quite a while on the harm and abuse that is done under the guise of “You have to listen to me because God is on my side.” In contrast, the Bible stories of men and women about to be used powerfully in the kingdom begin with totally understanding this idea of “poor in spirit.”
Miriam said, “Sing to the Lord, for He is highly exalted.”
Isaiah said, “Woe to me… I am a man of unclean lips.”
Gideon said, “O Lord, how shall I deliver Israel? Behold, my family is the least in Manasseh, and I am the youngest in my father’s house.
Hannah said, “He raises the poor from the dust and lifts the needy from the ash heap.”
Jeremiah said, “Behold, I do not know how to speak, because I am a youth.”
Moses said, “Who am I?”
Mary said, “And my spirit rejoices in God my Savior; because he has regarded the lowliness of his handmaid.”
David said, “Who am I, O Lord God, and what is my house?”
Peter said, “Depart from me; for I am a sinful man.”
Paul said, “I am the foremost of all sinners.”
This particular Hebrew word “poor” means destitute and without hope, not just merely “not rich.” Unless we confess and utterly believe in our personal brokenness, our hearts are not open to receive the kingdom so freely offered by our Father. When the son kneels in the dust and says, “I am not worthy,” the Father lifts him up and says, “'My son, you are always with me, and everything I have is yours.”
The kingdom is now. Present tense. Jesus among us. And all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted. No place for pride at all.
Day Two: The Pharisee praying in the temple had a closed fist heart: The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed thus: “God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector.” And sometimes I can smirk a bit, as I notice lots of Pharisee-types around me, especially sitting in the folding chairs next to me Sunday morning.
Or sitting in my folding chair. With the tiniest bit of encouragement and quiet reflection, that Holy Spirit can point out a few branches fogging my vision. Because I too have a Pharisee heart, pointing out those specks in other eyeballs. That don’t seem so tiny, like extortion and unjustness. And I get sort of glum or discouraged or crabby. Quite. And none of these are fruit of the Spirit. That is one sweet thing about the beatitudes, this nice clear simple list of factoids that Jesus explains to those who are following Him: a + b = c. Poor in spirit + Kingdom of God = Happy. Whoever is poor in spirit will be happy because they will be open and eager to live the kingdom now. They are so destitute, so hungry, so not bringing anything to the table.
May I be poor in spirit. Me. Sitting at His feet, looking up into His face at the love He has for me. Yet this is not a passive sitting. A sitting on my hands sort of sitting. This love of His is an active love, an outstretched arms sort of action. This love so freely offered and received. Unlike the Pharisee heavy weight of rules, Jesus yet again keeps it simple: Love the LORD your God with all of your heart, soul and mind...And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself.
Love as He as loved me. Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.
But God demonstrates His own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Romans 5:8
Who is He that condemns? Christ Jesus, who died-- more than that, who was raised to life-- is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. Romans 8:34
I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone -- for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.1 Timothy 2:1-4
Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8:35
And for today, Keep It Simple Stupid. Happy. Poor in me and rich in Him and happy. The world is a dark place full of broken injustice and dirty tricks and stomping on those already underfoot and there is plenty of work to be done in His love.
In all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.