Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. ~ Matthew 5:3
I’ll admit it. This verse of scripture troubles me. Because at first glance, it doesn’t make any sense. Being “poor in spirit” doesn’t strike me as a good thing. Certainly not a blessed quality in anyone. Being poor means being deprived of something, whether it’s a basic need, or good health, or another necessity. Being deprived isn’t a good thing.
And yet, there it is. In Matthew’s gospel, as Jesus kicks off his list of beatitudes, he says that being poor in spirit is a virtue. He doesn’t say the rich or the self-sufficient are blessed. The blessed ones aren’t those who have had it easy, or those who are the best and brightest. No, here the blessed ones are those who go without, who are needy, who are entrenched in the muck of life.
Maybe what’s really blessed is our dependence upon God. An understanding that all we have, all we are, all we’ve been and will be, are gifts extended by God’s benevolent hand. In the end, we can’t rely upon our bank accounts or intellect. At some point, our health might take a turn for the worst, or the relationships we hold dear might fall apart. When the road of life gives way to a fork, it usually comes unannounced.
Being poor in spirit is having the presence of mind and heart to rely on God for help. It’s realizing that just as surely as you need air to breathe, you need God. This realization, though incredibly humbling, is also remarkably freeing. God’s in charge, and we’re not. Plain and simple.
When it comes down to it, we might all do well to be a little poorer in spirit. A little less proud, a little less filled with the delusion that we’re in control. As the saying goes, we need to let go and let God. Let God steer the ship. Let God remind us of the counterintuitive ways in which we are, in fact, richly blessed.
Let’s pray together:
God of Our Lives,
Surprisingly enough, it’s a good thing to be poor in spirit. Teach us to get out of our own way. As much as we might resist, hold us in the palm of your weathered hand. In you is everything. And without you, nothing. Amen.