Blessed Poverty: Matthew 5:3

Matthew 5:3 (CSB) — Blessed are the poor in spirit, for the kingdom of heaven is theirs.

Brokenness is so beautiful to Jesus that he blesses it first and foremost among all spiritual conditions.

RICH IN SPIRIT

People who are “rich in spirit” are those who we look at and say, “now there’s a leader!

We are naturally drawn to people who carry themselves with confidence, possess impressive intellects, display great determination, are socially persuasive, and stand out among others as being exceptionally gifted individuals. These voices ring out with decisive action and resolute decision. These are the people we call “blessed” among people.

THE PAUPER SPIRIT

Imagine the shocked faces as Jesus blesses “the poor in spirit“. How can people who have no voice in this world be so blessed? How can people who have failed to be social influencers become the princes of God’s kingdom? They tread so lightly upon this world. What does Jesus mean telling us that these unimportant nobodies will inherit the single greatest kingdom the universe has ever seen?! Remarkable.

As I sat heartbroken by the distress of our day, listening to the noise of everyone demanding to be heard, I began wrestling with God; “how can your people be so easily entangled in hate, bitterness, slander, and personal ambition?” I watched with a broken heart as even pastors and preachers from all across America surrendered their pulpits as platforms for the prevailing narratives of our day.

Now consider Paul’s counsel to Timothy:

2 Timothy 2:3–4 (CSB) — 3 Share in suffering as a good soldier of Christ Jesus. 4 No one serving as a soldier gets entangled in the concerns of civilian life; he seeks to please the commanding officer.

The answer, at least in part, to my above question is that we have become rich in spirit and entangled ourselves in the concerns of this world. We have become so invested in our position and station in this world that we have been distracted by the affairs of this world. In many cases we fear what the world fears because we fear losing what the world fears losing.

We would do well to receive Scripture’s admonition:

1 Corinthians 4:8 (CSB) — 8 You are already full! You are already rich! You have begun to reign as kings without us—and I wish you did reign, so that we could also reign with you!

Revelation 3:17–19 (CSB) — 17 For you say, ‘I’m rich; I have become wealthy and need nothing,’ and you don’t realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind, and naked. 18 I advise you to buy from me gold refined in the fire so that you may be rich, white clothes so that you may be dressed and your shameful nakedness not be exposed, and ointment to spread on your eyes so that you may see. 19 As many as I love, I rebuke and discipline. So be zealous and repent.

I encourage you not to skip the above text to settle for my commentary. Unless the words of the Holy Spirit above pierce our hearts and take our spirit captive, this will all just be fluff and we will never know the blessings of the pauper-spirit.

Too often the body of Christ is so full of this world that it has no room for Jesus Christ. We have no appetite for the preaching of God’s word because we have been satiated by this world, have become full, rich, and “have need of nothing“… including Christ.

The pauper-spirit is, therefore, so blessed in the divine kingdom because it is not distracted or satisfied by this world; it is poor in this world because it is so rich in Christ!

BECOMING POOR-IN-SPIRIT

Now we must inquire about becoming poor in spirit. Furthermore, what kind of pauper-spirit are we meant to pursue? Will I be blessed in the kingdom of God if I gamble away my earthly possessions, ruin all my human relationships, and shipwreck my marriage so that I am left alone, impoverished, and ruined? We should distinguish between the pauper-spirit and a “ruined-spirit”.

The kind of pauper-spirit that Jesus blessed is not one that is obtained through worldly means, but through the cross of Christ.

Now let me explain: one can forsake “self” and pursue the well-being of others (i.e. Philippians 2:4) and still not become poor in spirit because they pursued this end by means other than the cross of Christ in which God condemned sin in his flesh (Romans 8:3). One can resist the lusts of the flesh in pursuit of moral purity (i.e. 1st Thessalonians 4:1-8) and still not become poor in spirit because one pursued these ends apart from the cross of Christ. Often those who are richest-in-spirit are those who went to the greatest length to become poor-in-spirit on their own. Their dependence upon their own will to become poor-in-spirit made them even richer-in-spirit. Likewise, those who were made broken by the cruelty of this world apart from their own will have not become “poor in spirit“, but are tragically “ruined-in-spirit“.

Therefore, becoming poor in spirit begins with receiving the call of Christ:

Luke 9:23 (CSB) — 23 Then he said to them all, “If anyone wants to follow after me, let him deny himself, take up his cross daily, and follow me.

Like Peter, who cast down his fishing nets to follow Christ when he heard him call from the shore, so too must we first hear the blessed call of the gospel and respond to his voice.

There are many who are called (Matthew 22:14), but they silence Jesus’ call and return again to their own affairs (Matthew 22:5); some even respond with hostility and outrage (Matthew 22:6) at Jesus’ demands for what it means to “deny yourself”. But those few who become poor in spirit do so because they were first called by Jesus and in him find the grace to become paupers!

After being called to the cross, we must deny ourselves: this means forsaking everything in this world in pursuit of the divine kingdom. You must give up your rights, your entitlements, and your station in this life. You will be broken as you watch others achieve your dreams, win your victories, and enjoy your privileges. You will endure sorrow as the honor, reputation, and respect that you once fought for is stripped from you by those who advance themselves at your expense. Yet you will surrender all grudges, bitterness, and revenge to your King. You will not defend your “self-image” because you have already surrendered it to the cross. Every desire, want, and lust must be forsaken at the foot of the cross. Indeed, you must even surrender your needs to the cross of Christ!

Through all of this you will become well-acquainted with failure. Like the Christian waiting to be burned at the stake who tests his resolve by putting his foot up next to the meager dungeon-fire to see if he can endure what is to come and then immediately pulls his foot back, wrenching at the pain with fear and trembling, you will face many failures; you will stumble as you carry this cross. But the relentless grace and mercy of Christ will gradually remove the rich garments of this world that you had clothed yourself in until you are laid bare upon the cross, just as Jesus Christ was stripped naked at his crucifixion.

Finally, being stripped naked of self by the cross, you will begin to follow Christ where he leads you, and it is in this following Christ that you will begin to experience the eternal blessings of the kingdom!

Colossians 3:5–14 (CSB) — 5 Therefore, put to death what belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desire, and greed, which is idolatry. 6 Because of these, God’s wrath is coming upon the disobedient, 7 and you once walked in these things when you were living in them. 8 But now, put away all the following: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and filthy language from your mouth. 9 Do not lie to one another, since you have put off the old self with its practices 10 and have put on the new self. You are being renewed in knowledge according to the image of your Creator. 11 In Christ there is not Greek and Jew, circumcision and uncircumcision, barbarian, Scythian, slave and free; but Christ is all and in all. 12 Therefore, as God’s chosen ones, holy and dearly loved, put on compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience, 13 bearing with one another and forgiving one another if anyone has a grievance against another. Just as the Lord has forgiven you, so you are also to forgive. 14 Above all, put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity.

Ephesians 4:21–24 (CSB) — 21 assuming you heard about him and were taught by him, as the truth is in Jesus, 22 to take off your former way of life, the old self that is corrupted by deceitful desires, 23 to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, 24 and to put on the new self, the one created according to God’s likeness in righteousness and purity of the truth.

Romans 13:14 (CSB) — 14 But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and don’t make plans to gratify the desires of the flesh.

Only when you have been stripped by the cross of your richness towards this world can you be clothed in the glories of Christ! No one would wear a suit jacket with decades old unwashed wholly shorts. Be fully divested of this world so that you can be fully clothed in Christ!

The Holy Spirit is our proof that we have become poor in spirit:

Romans 8:16–17 (CSB) — 16 The Spirit himself testifies together with our spirit that we are God’s children, 17 and if children, also heirs—heirs of God and coheirs with Christ—if indeed we suffer with him so that we may also be glorified with him.

Galatians 5:22–26 (CSB) — 22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, and self-control. The law is not against such things. 24 Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. 25 If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit. 26 Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another.

CONCLUSION

Are you broken yet?

The single greatest deterrent to the gospel of Christ is the counterfeit that allows you to retain some of this world, some of your “self-image”, and still have Christ because this counterfeit robs you of the urgency and surpassing-value of becoming poor-in-spirit!

Are you desperately famished and parched yet?

Out of the pauper spirit comes all the other blessed beatitudes. You cannot have any of the other blessings unless you first become a pauper.

Blessed are the poor in spirit, my brothers and sisters, because though the mighty who insist on their place in this world will fall, the poor in spirit will inherit everything from their God!

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