Reflective Writing : Blessed are the Poor in Spirit

I tend to spend a lot of time in doctrine and the epistles. Reading the words of Jesus in my devotion time ­— his sermons in particular — have both reminded me of and challenged me on the powerful simplicity in the instructions Christ himself gives us. I’ve spent a lot of time in Matthew 5:1-12 (the beatitudes) over the last three weeks and will continue to do so in the future. These teachings need to get deeper into my soul. The one scripture that has been my focus more than any other is Matthew 5:3, “‘Blessed are the poor in spirit, For theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven” (NJKV). I’ve sought God on what it means to be “poor in spirit”. I feel it means lacking or deficient in my own spirit. But what does that actually mean for me?

While meditating I was reminded of a cheer we used to do at high school football games. It’s a pretty common cheer, “We’ve got spirit yes we do, we’ve got spirit how ‘bout you?” We were basically building up our own excitement and determination by saying we had more drive and dedication than the other team. Whoever is more spirited is better equipped to take on the challenges of life — to be somebody, to be a winner.  Surely then, having a lot of spirit would seem like an admirable quality regardless of beliefs. Yet according to scripture, this is what I actually need to be deficient in.

I really wanted to grasp this concept. It is the first point Jesus makes in his famous sermon. What does being poor in my own spirit allow God to do for me? It allows me to make him the source of everything. I didn’t need to do a deep word study on the Greek word for spirit (pneuma), not because I know Greek, but because I’ve studied this word before when studying the Godhead or spiritual gifts. It basically means breath or wind, and is used in a plethora of ways throughout scripture. It took me a while to finally get peace on what “spirit” means in this verse. I feel in this context, God is talking about our very lives. The spirit is my life force. I need to “lose my life” (Matt. 16:25) by giving up my own will, passions, plans and desires for the Kingdom of God’s sake. And indeed, the reward promised is the Kingdom of Heaven. I’m blessed because once I realize I am poor (deficient, lacking) in the things of this life, I am prepared to find a new one in Christ. By realizing my own emptiness of spirit, I allow God to fill me with his Holy Spirit.

As I think of a life poor in spirit, I think of a life where the source my joy and peace comes from God. It is a broken and contrite life. It is a life where love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control come from God only, for outside of him I am poor and lacking. Where else can I go but to him? If my life itself is poor, I am quickly reminded of it when I am tempted to go anywhere but to God for sustenance.

This caused and is causing me to do spiritual inventory. In what area of life am I getting my spiritual sustenance from what really should be coming from God? Of course, if it’s not from God I suppose it’s not really sustenance, so a better question would be, in what area of life am I not admitting my poverty and refusing to turn to God for that need? The more I realize my need for a savior, the richer my faith should become. This scripture seemed to affirm what I was receiving from the text: “Listen, my beloved brethren: Has God not chosen the poor of this world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom which He promised to those who love Him?” (Jas. 2:5)

It is so easy to equate poor with bad, lazy, unworthy, underprivileged or deprived. I’ve had to think about the outward appearance I portray both in and out of the church. I tend to shun the appearance that I may be poor in the areas of faith, finance, emotions and relationships. But the truth is that I’m very lacking in all these things. Over the past week as this scripture has become a part of my daily thoughts, I’ve found less pressure to perform or put on a show. Yes, I want to do well and succeed in all areas of my life. But each morning as I’m getting ready for my day and driving to work, “blessed are the poor in spirit” has been reminding me to find that humble and contrite spirit within myself that God can use. It’s a simple thing, but (at least for me) has had a powerful effect. I’ve put this into a prayer that will positively impact my life and ministry:

Father, thank you for choosing and loving me. Your love is more than enough and there is nothing else that compares to it. I ask your forgiveness for the times I’ve tried to find riches in anything other than you. When blessing come my way in life, when I’ve done well by following your word and you choose to bless me, I ask that I never stop hungering and thirsting after more of you. I ask that I never look around and say that my own power has achieved these things. In my area of ministry in particular Lord, I ask that I never become puffed up or lose the child-like faith that produces complete reliance in my Heavenly Father. In Jesus’ name, Amen.