Here's our first guest post on seeking the beatitudes in the Old Testament! I know you're going to be blessed by these thoughts from Rachel Schmoyer.
Recently my church was a host to four homeless families through the Family Promise program. Thirteen churches in our area take turns housing families in the evening and overnight. The day program helps the families find jobs and places to live.
On my way to volunteering at the church one evening, I found myself thinking, “I’m so glad I know how to handle money so that I’m not homeless like these people.”
The Holy Spirit convicted me right away. Was it really because of me that we are not homeless?
I thought back to the times that my husband and I had been foolish with our money. We had large credit card debt and a low income. Our first landlord didn’t cash our rent checks for several years (weird, I know!) so we felt free to not pay attention to our bank account and how much money was actually in there. If he would have cashed the checks, we would have been sunk! Later, we purchased a home that was way above what we could afford. God (and the bank) forgave through a short sale.
The truth is, although we have lately learned how to handle money God’s way, there were plenty of times that God could have put us in a program like Family Promise. In fact, that is probably what we deserved. But God did not plan it that way. Not because we are great, but that was His plan. I don’t know why.
With these memories fresh on my mind, I arrived at church and served with a different attitude than the one I had in the car. I served with humility, with respect for these families, and with thankfulness for God’s mercy towards me.
I was reminded of this incident when I reread the phrase “blessed are the poor in spirit.”
What does poor in spirit mean?
In Matthew 5, Jesus begins His famous sermon, the Sermon on the Mount, with the Beatitudes. The Beatitudes are a poetic list describing the attitude of one who belongs to God’s kingdom. They describe what Christians should be like while we are waiting for Christ to return.
The first beatitude, in Matthew 5:3, says:
Blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
This must have surprised some listeners. Normally we think of the wealthy or the worthy belonging to a kingdom. Those who belong to the ruling class. These are the people who in and of themselves traditionally belong in a kingdom.
But Jesus says the unexpected. It’s not the wealthy who own the kingdom of heaven, but the poor—the poor in spirit.
Although Jesus could have perhaps just said “the humble,” this is poetic. I like the play on words with the word “poor.” With those words, we get a picture in our minds of a person with an empty pocketbook who needs food and clothing. Someone poor can’t purchase what they need.
But this phrase is not about the financially poor. It’s about the poor in spirit.
According to the Moody Bible Commentary, “poor in spirit” means a recognition of one’s spiritual bankruptcy. One who knows they are poor in spirit knows they have nothing of their own to offer to God.
This is easy to recognize for initial salvation. We remember that no one is righteous, not even one (Romans 3:20). We need Christ’s righteousness for salvation (1 Corinthians 1:30). But, if you are like me, once we start growing in Christ, we forget that is it Christ doing the work in our hearts for sanctification as well.
But this is not a new concept when Jesus is preaching on the hillside. It has always been true of humble believers in God.
It was especially true of the prophet Isaiah.
Isaiah is Poor in Spirit
In Isaiah 6, Isaiah sees God on His throne in heaven surrounded by seraphim praising God and calling Him “holy, holy, holy.”
Isaiah does not waltz into the throne room and think: Yup. This is just where I belong!
Instead he replies with a poor in spirit attitude (Isaiah 6:5-8):
“Woe to me!” I cried. “I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the Lord Almighty.”
Then one of the seraphim flew to me with a live coal in his hand, which he had taken with tongs from the altar. With it he touched my mouth and said, “See, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away and your sin atoned for.”
Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?”
And I said, “Here am I. Send me!”
Isaiah does not volunteer his services until after he has acknowledged he is spiritually bankrupt and receives forgiveness from the King Himself.
Then Isaiah is ready to serve.
In my service to the Lord, I need to be poor in spirit. I serve my family with the Lord’s wealth of goodness since I am poor. I serve my church family not because I am great, but because the Lord has done great things in me.
We may be “poor in spirit,” but we have access to the Lord’s wealth of goodness, and that’s even better! Seeking the #beatitudes in the Old Testament: it’s #NotAboutMe, via @Carole_Sparks and @schmoyer_rachel. (click to tweet)
Have you known “poor in spirit”? How has humility helped you “own” the Kingdom? Rachel and I would enjoy hearing from you in the comments below!
Rachel Schmoyer is a pastor’s wife who is loving her church life. She writes and speaks about finding simple truth in complex parts of Scripture. You can visit her blog at Read the Hard Parts. You can contact her on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, or Pinterest.