A Lesson on Poverty
“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”(Matthew 5:3).
Matthew records eight “beatitudes” -attitudes that ought to be- as part of The Sermon on the Mount.
Luke records four beatitudes as part of The Sermon on the Plain. These attitudes prescribe the kind of thinking Jesus expects from his disciples. Like the fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5, the attitudes come as a set. They are more like a cluster of grapes than a bowl of apples, oranges, and pears. Jesus himself is the perfect embodiment of the attitudes he articulates.
Blessed are the poor in spirit- The poor, to Luke, meant poverty. This may describe the working poor who labor to make ends meet, or the destitute who have no idea where their next meal will come from. Abraham Lincoln observed, “The good Lord must surely love the poor; he made so many of them!” Jesus himself was born poor, lived the life of a peasant, and died poor on the cross. By contrast, the poor, to Matthew, meant spiritual poverty/humility – a sense of dependence upon God. All religious arrogance, whether of the atheist or the Pharisee, is ruled out. Knowing and acknowledging our need for God is a first step on the way to being blessed.
For theirs is the kingdom of heaven- This is the blessing accompanying the attitude. Much of life is spent trying to build our own little kingdoms. In route, we get an education, find a partner, have children, subjects, and establish the rules by which we will live. For some this is not enough – they must have an office, a title, weapons, and control over the lives of others. By contrast, the “King of Kings” had nowhere to lay his head! Truth is, there is only one kingdom. Jesus taught us to pray, “Thy kingdom come.” It is the “kingdom of God” and his righteousness and rule. As earthly kingdoms crumble, we remember “the house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens”.
There are riches that moths, rust, and thieves can corrupt or steal. These are the temporal blessings of earthly kingdoms. Then, there are the incorruptible riches, the showers of blessings that can only be rained down upon us by the heavenly Father. We receive those blessings as a gift – the gifts of grace.
Dr. Faught is Pastor of The LaFolletteUnitedMethodistChurch.