“How to Become Poor” a devotional from Matthew 5
In a city, it is not uncommon to pass by several homeless people. Some may be lying on a park bench, others sitting with a hazy stare still others maybe in search of food in a nearby trash can. Or what about in Brookings, South Dakota: more and more, homeless individuals are becoming prevalent in the current economic crisis in small, Midwest communities. You may see a person standing on the side of the road, trying to either get a meal, money or transportation to a different town. They all seem pretty desperate don’t they? They seem as though they have no shame in standing by the road with a sign day after day admitting, “I need help!”
I had the privilege of participating in a “poverty simulation” with some students at a camp I’ve worked at the past two summers. The directors of this poverty simulation wanted our group to experience what it was truly like to be homeless for four days. We traded in our expensive clothes for second-hand, non-fitted clothing. We slept outside in sleeping bags with trash bags to keep the dew from soaking through. We had limited use of the restroom and no showers. We had occasional opportunities to eat but we never knew when, what and how much. The climax of the poverty simulation took place on the last day when we actually begged for meals in downtown St. Louis. The looks, the stares were hurtful but it didn’t matter; we were in desperation and in need of food.
This past Sunday at Oasis, Pastor Rick’s message was not on “How to help the poor and the needy,” but rather “How to be poor; poor in Spirit.” So often we read a passage about being poor and we think it means “selling everything” and living a sacrificial life. Well, in a sense, when we decide to follow Jesus, we are leaving everything to follow Him but how does one truly become ‘poor in spirit’? How does one make his or her spirit ‘poor’? And what is the worth of becoming poor? Let’s look at the passage in Matthew 5 in context with the other beatitudes to get a better idea of it’s meaning.
The Sermon on the Mount
1Seeing the crowds,(A) he went up on the mountain, and when he(B) sat down, his disciples came to him.
2And(C) he opened his mouth and taught them, saying:
3(D) "Blessed are(E) the poor in spirit, for(F) theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
4"Blessed are(G) those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.
5"Blessed are the(H) meek, for they shall inherit the earth.
6"Blessed are those who hunger and(I) thirst(J) for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.
7"Blessed are(K) the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.
8"Blessed are(L) the pure in heart, for(M) they shall see God.
9"Blessed are(N) the peacemakers, for(O) they shall be called(P) sons[a] of God.
10(Q) "Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for(R) theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
11(S) "Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely(T) on my account. 12(U) Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for(V) so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” So Jesus is saying that if I become poor in the spirit, that I can inherit the kingdom of heaven? A cross-reference to this passage is found in Luke 12:32 which says:
"Fear not, little(B) flock, for(C) it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you(D) the kingdom.
Indeed Christ is saying that we will inherit a kingdom if we become poor in spirit. So how does one do that? A commentary provided by John Gill may shed some light on the statement of becoming poor in spirit, he writes:
“The greater part of mankind are insensible of this their condition; but think themselves rich, and increased with goods: there are some who are sensible of it, who see their poverty and want, freely acknowledge it, bewail it, and mourn over it; are humbled for it, and are broken under a sense of it; entertain low and mean thoughts of themselves; seek after the true riches, both of grace and glory; and frankly acknowledge, that all they have, or hope to have, is owing to the free grace of God. Now these are the persons intended in this place; who are not only "poor", but are poor "in spirit"; in their own spirits, in their own sense, apprehension, and judgment: and may even be called "beggars", as the word may be rendered; for being sensible of their poverty, they place themselves at the door of mercy, and knock there; their language is, "God be merciful"; their posture is standing, watching, and waiting, at wisdom's gates, and at the posts of her door; they are importunate, will have no denial, yet receive the least favour with thankfulness. Now these are pronounced "blessed", for this reason not only the Gospel, and the ministration of it, which belongs to them. "The poor have the Gospel preached": it not only reaches their ears, but their hearts; it enters into them, is applied unto them, they receive and embrace it with the utmost joy and gladness; but eternal glory, this is prepared for them, and given to them; they are born heirs of it, have a right unto it, are making meet for it, and shall enjoy it.” John Gill Commentary (www.studylight.org)
Being poor in the spirit simply means recognizing the poverty-ridden-state of your heart. You have nothing without the grace and mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ. You cannot do anything to obtain salvation; it is a gift from God. Just like my group wandering around the streets downtown St. Louis begging for food, we as people first must recognize we are in need—we are hungry. You may have been able to curve your hunger pains for love, acceptance and joy in this life in temporary things like money, success or relationships but far too often discovered that they went away, leaving you even more hungry than before. Or maybe you’ve been sustained by simply going to church once a week, listening to Christian music and praying before every meal. Being a Christ-follower is so much more than that. It starts with a recognition of your bankruptcy in life and then allowing it to ‘enter into them, is applied unto them, they receive and embrace it with the utmost joy and gladness.” I cannot express the happiness that filled my heart when my group received a free meal at a little Chinese restaurant in St. Louis. Being a meat and potato-girl, I am not one who always likes Oriental food but I can say that cleaned that plate and was so satisfied. Imagine what Christ’s body and blood will do to satisfy your hunger.