The first beatitude sets the foundation for understanding the kind of life to which God calls us and the primary condition for access to that life and relationship with God. Poverty of spirit is the key to getting into the kingdom of God. It speaks to the posture of our heart before God.
To be poor in spirit is to recognize our utter lack of anything sufficient to earn God’s love. It is the recognition of complete dependence on God because nothing we can do or say or be can redeem us from ourselves and our brokenness. We turn to God because we know that nothing other than the righteousness of Christ can bridge that gap between ourselves and God. Not our own intelligence, wealth, relationships, or physical attributes.
Poverty of spirit is the prerequisite for confession, repentance, and pursuing life with God. The kingdom of God belongs to those of us who recognize our brokenness and our complete need for redemption and who understand that our access to the kingdom comes from God’s initiating love and grace. We do not foster a right relationship with God by relying on our own abilities or setting our own terms for relating with God.
The longer we have been believers, the easier it can be to forget that we need to maintain a poverty of spirit in our ongoing relationship with God. To be a Christian is to weigh continually the ways in which we are at odds with the temptations of who the world tells us we should be. We constantly face the choice of living our lives in the world’s way rather than relying on God’s way of servant leadership, abundance mentality, forgiveness, generosity, hospitality, and peacemaking. Maintaining a poverty of spirit takes an ongoing active life of discipleship. From that posture, we grow to embody the rest of the Beatitudes.
Lord, it is not easy to put down my pride, my desire to accomplish things my way and by my own means. Help me to be poor in spirit so that I always find myself before you in humility and gratitude. Amen.
We must beware counterfeit gospels. According to one current counterfeit gospel, we deserve God’s favor based on our deeds or intellect or status. The readings for this week remind us that this is false. Yes, the Israelites offer sacrifices, but they are first and foremost called to show mercy because they have received divine mercy. The psalmist asks who can stand in God’s holy dwelling and so provides a list of ways to live morally. Ultimately no one can stand before God on merit alone. Paul reminds the Corinthians that human wisdom is foolishness compared to the wisdom of God, and thus we should not puff ourselves up based on our intellect. Jesus teaches that those who may seem insignificant in the eyes of the world are great in the kingdom of heaven.
Read Micah 6:1-8. How have you let down God? What changes can you make to recommit to your relationship with God?
Read Psalm 15. Consider the notion that the requirements for dwelling with God are in how we treat our friends and neighbors. How does this change the ways you seek God?
Read 1 Corinthians 1:18-31. When have you seen God’s work in the world in a way that is antithetical to human standards?
Read Matthew 5:1-12. How do you maintain a poverty of spirit in your relationship with God? How does this help you to serve God and others?
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