Poor in Spirit

Q:  In Matthew 5:3, "Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven."  What does it mean to be poor in spirit?

A:  This question, found on a card submitted on Q Sunday back in February 2013, deals with an interesting statement of Jesus in a section of "The Sermon on the Mount" called the beatitudes.  Jesus makes a number of statements that begin with the word "Blessed" where Jesus identifies those who are "blessed" or made happy or whole by God.  He starts with this statement about those who are "poor in spirit".

Simply put, being "poor in spirit" relates to recognizing the poverty in our own selves.  We aren't perfect and never will be.  We do not have the resources in ourselves or on our own to live up to the purposes for which we were created.

I think of a pastor I recently met who was dealing with deep depression.  He just seemed unable to deal with the stresses of his job and leading the people of his church.  He said he would go to his counselor and just kind of get out all his anger and disappointment.  After a significant number of sessions, the counselor put down his pen, looked across the desk and said, "What is it that you want?"

The man responded, "I just want to be better than I am."

The counselor shot back, "What if you never will?  What if you'll never be better or different than you are?"

That's where poverty in spirit begins--accepting that you may not have anything in yourself to "measure up".  That's also the place where you and I begin to experience God's grace.  God offers us relationship and forgiveness and acceptance for who we are just as we are.

Jesus says that the kingdom of heaven belongs to people who recognize their own weaknesses, their own poverty of spirit.  God reaches out to a person just like that.

I can deny my own shortcomings.  I can deny the fact that I don't have the resources to be the person God made me to be or that I hope to be, and when I do that, God's kingdom is open to me.  He sends help and power and transformation to my life.

I may not want to be poor in spirit, but when I confess it to God, it unlocks new boundless possibilities! 

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