“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” Matthew 5:2
What does it mean to be “poor in spirit”? And, why are the people who are “poor in spirit” blessed? Are they blessed because they are poor in spirit? Or, does the state of being poor make them predisposed to God’s blessing?
If people are blessed because they are poor, then simply giving away all of one’s possessions should lead to blessings. Maybe it would. Maybe the act of giving everything away would yield an openness to God’s blessings. But, then giving everything away would not be the source of the blessing. The act of giving everything away would be transformative. Upon realizing the change after experiencing a willful entry into poverty, God’s blessing would logically follow the state of being poor, not the act of giving everything away.
Poverty is not having enough. We can be materially poor and lack sufficient food and clothing. We can be intellectually poor and lack information or ability to understand complicated subjects. To many people, poverty means the state of being poor—being inferior in worth, value, or self-image. Entering this state means stripping off the trappings of the world.
What is the opposite? And, why would people in the opposite state not be blessed? When we have enough, we do not need more. When we do not need more, the space in our lives for God diminishes. We have what we need; therefore, why do we need God? For many people, the answer is: we don’t! Jesus responds to this self-reliance and self-sufficiency by pointing out the blessings that can accompany giving ourselves away.
Creating space for God means moving something else out of the way. Sometimes we must move our ego. Other times, we need to address our relationship with material things. Even relationships can get in the way of our poverty before God. Almost anything can become a stumbling block: technology, politics, the news, and so one.
When we can meet our own needs, what do we ask from God? More? Then, we being greedy. People who can meet all of their own needs and have a strong sense of self-worth will struggle with placing all of their security in God. The passage is not exclusively about economics or spirituality, but about placing our identity in God.
The words in the text not only refer to literal poverty, what we think of as material poverty, but they also suggest humility. By not having enough, or being in the spirit of poverty, we can come to God with open hands and be grateful for any blessings God gives.
What gets in the way of our dependence on God?