This year, I am going back to writing daily devotionals. They will be topical, and I’m beginning with a series on the Sermon on the Mount. I pray that they help you grow deeper in your relationship with God.
January 1 (Matthew 5:3 NIV)
Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Most of us in the United States really don’t understand what it means to live in poverty. Perhaps we compare ourselves to people who are wealthier than ourselves and think of ourselves as poor, but we’ve never experienced the abject poverty that leaves us wondering where our next meal will come from, or if we’ll have a next meal. That kind of poverty creates dependence upon the goodness of others: someone giving you a paying job; someone helping you out in financial emergencies. Your own resources have been exhausted and without others stepping up, you might not survive.
The disciples understood that kind of poverty. They may not have experienced it themselves, but it was all around them in the culture. One of the parables Jesus told related to clothing people who were so poor that they were naked. There were no cultural safety nets for people living in poverty other than some kind of help from the Temple. The need to care for the poor was so great that giving alms was considered a religious duty.
The religious elite of Jesus’ day, the Pharisees, the Sadducees, and the priests, thought they were in good shape because they gave to the poor, and made sure everyone knew it. They didn’t need any help because they had it all together. While none of them would have said it publicly, they were probably sure that God was lucky they were on His side. They were so full of themselves, and the pride that comes from being spiritually elite, that there was no room for God to bless them.
In the Beatitudes, one of the groups of people Jesus described as blessed were the opposite of the religious elite: those who were dependent spiritually or the spiritually poor. Jesus taught that those who came to God in their spiritual poverty, depending on Him for all of their needs, would receive His blessings. We receive God’s blessings when we put away all pretense to goodness in ourselves and throw ourselves as spiritual paupers into the arms of God. When we do that, we receive a blessing greater than any job or financial blessing: we receive the Kingdom of Heaven.
Lord, teach me to depend on You for all things and not trust in my own abilities. Help me to know that in the midst of my spiritual poverty, You welcome me into the Kingdom of Heaven.