January 6 I Sunday
“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” —Matthew 5:3
If we were to ask the average person what they thought made up the “blessed” life, we might get responses like: “Friends and family. A nice house, a nice car and a good salary. Maybe a cottage or a vacation or two each year.” This materialistic understanding of the blessed life is very different from how Jesus begins the Sermon on the Mount. What most of us would consider curses—poverty, hunger, sorrow, being hated—He describes as the blessed life.
Each beatitude begins with this word “blessed,” which literally means “to be happy,” though this translation does not do the word justice. The Greek word is makariôs, which is more of a deep lasting inner sense of well-being and contentment, regardless of circumstances. It is to be supremely happy, overwhelming with joy. The beatitudes are not describing eight different kinds of Christians but eight progressive ingredients that will be true of each Christian who is truly happy, the first three having to do with our condition before God.
We could reword the first beatitude to say, “Blessed is the person crouched over in humility, destitute of spiritual wealth, dependent on God for help. To them belongs the kingdom of heaven.” The poor in spirit are those who acknowledge they do not have what it takes to live the Christian life. They know they are spiritually bankrupt, utterly helpless, like a car without an engine, but the blessings of heaven meet us at the point of our poverty. The starting point of entering into Christ’s kingdom is an awareness of our unsuitability for His kingdom. Before a holy God, we bring absolutely nothing to the table but are met by His unmerited favour and grace.
Once we experience the first beatitude, the next two will follow: “Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth” (Matthew 5:4-5). Facing our poverty of spirit, we mourn our poverty and discover at that point that the Comforter, the Holy Spirit, replaces our weakness with His strength, our poverty with His riches and our sin with His righteousness. Our logical response is meekness, where in humility we submit ourselves in obedience to Christ as Lord and discover life on earth has meaning and purpose—we “inherit the earth.”
The beatitudes—indeed, the whole of the Sermon on the Mount—opens with the poverty of man front and centre. This is the disposition that makes us ready to meet Christ, and as we live in this posture of dependence, mourning and humility, He comforts us and fills us with His righteousness.
Prayer: Dear Heavenly Father, help me recognize anew my poverty in spirit. I cannot live the Christian life on my own strength, but thank You that You can and promise You will.