The Beatitudes: Blessed are the poor in spirit.
Image: Golden Summer, Makoto Fujimura, 2000.
The first beatitude that Jesus proclaims in his sermon on the mount, is
“Blessed are the poor in spirit,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.“
This is the first prod, the first nudge, the first indication we get from Jesus, that he might see things in a totally different way than the rest of us. That the kingdom of God could not be equated with the power and success of Rome, nor with the religious and ethnic purity of the Jewish religious leaders, but instead, Jesus points to the poor in spirit, and says – this, this is who the kingdom of heaven belongs to. This is where it is found. This is where you see the presence of God at work in the most profound ways.
The call here is not to become poor in spirit so that God will be nice to you, but to recognise that it is telling us something about the way God sees the word. It invites us in to a different vision.
So who, then, are the poor in spirit?
Those who are downtrodden by the system
Those who do not measure up to the religious rules, the purity system, the way things work
Those who seem ‘helpless’ and unable to change their own circumstances let alone the world around them.
The religion of Christianity has often turned the gospel into gaining the keys to being inside the religious club. But here Jesus says, you who are poor in spirit… you who are not in the club, you who don’t know the right things to say and do, you are where God is at work. God is with you. God is for you.
This is a fundamentally different kind of message.
In the last few years I have experienced things being turned upside down much more often than I would like.
Reality has been disrupted.
I was the kind of person for whom things usually turned out ok. There’s a big mess out there in the world, but me and my friends – things go ok for us.
My religion made sense, my worldview made sense, my version of reality worked.
Until it didn’t.
Things got upended. Again and again.
Tipped upside down.
Life did not go how I thought it would.
Not just my own, but for my friends too.
And it didn’t matter what theology we held, what we believed, what we thought, how many bible verses we memorised…
Life doesn’t play by those rules.
But what I have found, is that the kingdom of heaven makes more sense to me now than it did before.
It’s a weird paradox to see that it can be in the upending of life that you realise how present God is.
Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
You might feel like you’re not really nailing this life all that well. Maybe you feel overwhelmed in the face of a world that doesn’t play nice. Maybe you’re caught up in a system that you don’t feel you can escape from. Maybe you feel helpless. Stuck. Disconnected.
Maybe you’re struggling to make your way in the world, trying to figure out your path and you’re not sure what to do, where to turn, what the right step is. You feel like everyone is passing you by. Getting ahead. Making it happen.
Maybe you feel like you’re poor in spirit.
This is for you as much as for it is for anyone. Maybe even more so.