Wednesday, June 4, 2014

June 5, 2014

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven." Matthew 5:3

I grew up in an era when the economy was growing and expanding at an amazing rate in post - WWII America. 

No doubt part of that drive to succeed and prosper was motivated by the fear of living through another great depression. It motivated people to work hard and save money and to invest it wisely.

So, it could be said the fear of poverty drove much of America's prosperity and growth. The power of the "American Dream" and the notion of personal independence and rugged individualism have been deeply ingrained into generations of Americans.

With those realities in mind, no wonder many of us struggle with the notion of poverty being something we struggle to get our hearts, minds and spirits around.

But since Jesus said it and promises happiness to those who embrace it, we'd better understand it.

Let's pause for a moment and remember that Jesus is placing a high value on spiritual poverty rather than speaking against wealth.

What is this spiritual poverty Jesus calls blessed?

It is a sense of powerlessness in ourselves.
It is a sense of spiritual bankruptcy and helplessness before God.
It is a sense of moral uncleanness before God.
It is a sense of personal unworthiness before God.
It is a sense that if there is to be any life or joy or usefulness, it will have to be all of God and all of grace.

It seems a surprising way to begin talking about happiness by saying, "Blessed are the poor in spirit." There are two ways in which we can come at the meaning of this word poor and it requires interpreting .the Greek and the Aramaic words used for "poor" and putting them together. - "ptochos" describes the man who is absolutely destitute, the man who has nothing at all; in Aramaic - "aniy" and "ebyown". Together they translate to, "Blessed is the man who has realized his own utter helplessness, and who has put his whole trust in God."

So then, the first beatitude means:

O the bliss of the man who has realized his own utter helplessness, and who has put his whole trust in God, for thus alone he can render to God that perfect obedience which will make him a citizen of the kingdom of heaven!

What is this "blessedness" promised to the poor of spirit? The word in the Greek text is "makarios" which describes that joy which has its secret within itself, that joy which is serene and untouchable, and self-contained, that joy which is completely independent of all the chances and the changes of life. 

Spiritual prosperity begins with understanding how utterly and hopelessly poor your soul is apart from the riches of God's grace.