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The Poor In Spirit

by Paul Wasilkoff
There is something special about attending a major-league sporting event. Hard work, team work, dedication and pursuit of excellence are intricately woven into professional sports. Also very present is the marketing of ego. And it works—would you ever watch two teams play in the Mediocre Bowl?
Sports is not the only aspect of culture where performance, ego and commerce collide. However, it is an arena where the idea of competence and self-confidence are magnified and lauded. Precious few endorsment dollars would be given to a successful, humble athelete. Media attention, and therefore money, is extended to the brash,  haughty and more arrogant individuals.
In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus spoke of blessings as a result of specific attitudes. The collection, known as the Beatitudes, start with a blessing. The word Jesus used for “blessed” is the Greek word makarios which has rich and deep connotations. To get an idea of the meaning see 2 Chronicles 9:5-8. In this passage the context of joy, happiness and contentment is established with the blessing delivered by the Queen of Sheba. It is easy to miss the full scope of “bless” when we use the word so casually (we hear it often after someone sneezes!)
The first Beatitude (Matthew 5:3) is “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” The word poor implies abject poverty. The implication is a condition more than  just lacking resources; the fuller meaning is being broke and also in debt. A person who is poor in spirit recognizes their total lack of inherent righteousness before God the Father. Isaiah 64:6 gives a good summary of this plight.
This realization is a catalyst through which we can begin to change. God pricks our hearts so that we see, know and feel our spiritual poverty. Thankfully, God reaches down to us and grants us a way out of this deficit.
God’s plan has room for so many people. This is clear also in the first Beatitude in the use of the word “theirs”. Romans 8:17 reminds us that we are joint heirs. God’s inheritance doesn’t decrease in value and our share isn’t any less when shared. What an awesome opportunity to be involved in an expanding inheritance that increases in value with each new convert!
This first Beatitude also reinforces God’s view on the promises He makes. “Theirs is.” Jesus could have said, “Theirs will be,” but He used the present tense. Similar language is used when the Lord appeared to Abram in Genesis 17:5 where God changed his name to Abraham. God also told him “I have made you a father of many nations.” God’s promise hadn’t been fulfilled, but He spoke as though it were accomplished because He had the authority, power and will to fulfill the promise. It was as good as delivered.
Why did the Apostle Matthew record the phrase “Kingdom of Heaven” when Luke used the phrase “Kingdom of God”? Some have concluded there must be a doctrinal reason for the difference. However, the variation has more to do with cultural sensativities than doctrine. Matthew’s audience was primarily Jewish; he understood the reverence the Jews placed on God’s name. He therefore used a word that would deliver the intended meaning without causing offense. to his audience. Kingdom of God and Kingdom of Heaven refer to the same idea.
King David expressed a similar sentiment and companion to the first Beatitude when he wrote, “The Lord is near to those who have a broken heart, and saves such as have a contrite spirit.” Putting this vital Beatitude into practice won’t win us any sports endorsements. However, by living a godly life, being appropriately poor in spirit, will hold us in good stead.
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