“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way…” Charles Dickens (A Tale of Two Cities, 1859)
It seems little has changed in the 150 years since Mr. Dickens penned these words. Our world in 2011 is still one of doubles. In truth, my own heart can be filled with doubles.
Jesus brought us face to face with the “doubles” incubating in our hearts when He shocked His world and ours with the Tudes2B (Beatitudes).
Although the Tudes2B can stand alone just as the Ten Commandments can, they are also linked together like a beautiful gold chain. If one link is missing, then the chain is broken.
The first link Jesus gives us in the Tudes2B chain is the foundation for all of the others.
“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” Matt 5:3 NIV
What does Jesus mean when He says, “the poor in spirit?”
Notice, Jesus did not say, “Blessed are the poor.” He said, “Blessed are the poor in spirit…”
The meaning of the word “poor” in Greek is, “one who has nothing and is completely empty.”
A true Disciple of Christ seeks a Tude of “GOD- reliance,” not “SELF-reliance.”
Simply put, “poor in spirit” means that we have absolutely no hope of salvation without Jesus Christ (Eph 2:1-8). Have you come to the place where you realize you are a pauper before God? That even your best acts are not enough to pay the debt you owe?
If so, then you have come to the first step in becoming a follower of Christ – recognizing your need for a saviour.
Yet, this first Tude doesn’t end with salvation. “Poor in spirit” is displayed throughout a Christian’s life as an ongoing dependence and resting in the Lord Jesus Christ and His grace!
However, this is where many of us live a “double” life.
What is the opposite of the “poor in spirit?”
How soon does the spirit of poverty give way to the spirit of pride?
Rather than looking at those still lost in sin with the eyes of Christ’s compassion, we think we are so much better than they are because we are saved! (Luke 18:9-14)
We have become so confidant in our riches as far as talents, abilities and resources go, that we are no longer in need of God.
Here is the thing. Poverty is not a question of money. It is not material. It is an attitude. The problem in North America today is that most of us has no idea what it means to be destitute. We equate poverty with my neighbor driving a BMW while I drive a Volkswagen!
Go into most of our homes and you will find the latest gadgets, fashions and toys. In all honesty, very few of us know what real hunger feels like, myself included. We don’t know what it is to “go without” the necessities of life.
Therefore, we can drive past the runaway standing on the street asking for money without feeling guilty. We justify our ignoring them as “enabling them.” We rationalize that we are doing right by not giving them money so they won’t go and buy drugs. We drive home to our warm homes and enjoy our hot meals while another is left to shiver in the cold and experience another day where God’s love was never manifested to them. *(see note below)
Is it wrong to have things? NO!
It is wrong, however, when they own us!
What if God asked you to give up your gym membership and use that money to sponsor a child each month? Would you?
What if God asked you to cut your grocery bill in half each week and use the money to support a missionary serving God? Would you?
(Do you know that the amount of money North Americans spend on weight loss each year is more than what is needed to send missionaries to the 40% of the world that is still unevangelized?)
Those are tough questions for sure, my friends; ones that challenge my own heart and life. Nevertheless, they have to be asked so that we can see which spirit is ruling our hearts.
Oh, Friend, if only we would exercise a spirit of poverty rather than pride! How few marriages would end in divorce, how few wars would break out, how few would go without knowing Jesus?
The poor in spirit Tude realizes that all I have (money, house, family, gadgets) and all I am (talents, skills) do not belong to me. They all belong to God.
If you and I want to change our world, we have to take an honest look at which spirit is ruling; the prideful spirit or the poor spirit.
One brings blessing. The other a curse.
“Forgive me, Lord, for being too concerned about myself, for being too dependent on possessions, for failing to respond to the needs of others. Forgive me, for stubbornly closing my hands over the things that do not belong to me in the first place. Amen”
* I know that many of you, like me, struggle with what to do when you are faced with people asking for money.
May I share an idea for one scenerio that is an alternative to giving money but still meets the need?
Go to Costco or Sams and purchase a big box of granola bars, bottled water, toothbrushes and toothpaste or whatever you feel meets the need. You could even purchase gift cards for a local coffee shop. Then, purchase some Gospel tracts (Billy Graham Association has some great ones) and some small New Testaments (The Gideons would gladly give you some New Testaments for free or at a minimal cost if you contact them). Then, buy a box of large Ziploc bags. Fill them with the purchased items and keep one or two bags on hand in your car. The next time you are asked for money at an intersection, you can give them a bag!
If you are financially unable to do this alone, ask some friends to partner with you. Maybe you can take this idea and start a new ministry within your church.
Isn’t ministry simple?