We must spread spiritual poverty

12 Feb

I’m seeing fliers on my campus quoting Jesus as saying “blessed are the poor,” leading the reader to assume Jesus is referring to material poverty. Well, Jesus did say “blessed are the poor,” but that’s an incomplete quote. The full quote is found in Matthew 5:3 “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of God.” The bible speaks about Christian responsibilities towards the materially poor in other places, but not here. Here, Jesus is referring to spiritual impoverishment (poor IN SPIRIT). The word blessed refers to approval. What kind of person does God approve of? Ironically, the assumption that Jesus is referring to material poverty proves too much, since it would mean that Jesus is approving of being or becoming poor.  If that is the case, we shouldn’t be trying to eliminate poverty but spread it.  No, Jesus is referring to spiritual impoverishment, which is a necessary condition for saving grace.  It is only when one understands one’s spiritual impoverishment that divine approval, salvation, inheriting the kingdom of God, is possible. One must be like a child (Matt. 18:3-4) and like the poor (here), totally dependent upon the provision of another, in order to be fit for the kingdom of heaven. In both places, Jesus teaches that the Kingdom of Heaven is fit only for those who have nothing in their hand to bring in exchange for God’s mercy, clinging for dear life only to the cross of Christ (not their own spiritual wealth or religious maturity). God approves of the “poor in spirit” because they know they have nothing in their spiritual or religious bank accounts to offer as payment for the sin-debt they owe to a Holy God, but they cry out to Him for mercy nonetheless. And rooted in inexplicable love, that same Holy God has made provision to make the payment for them, in the person and work of His only Son, Jesus Christ, who laid down his life as a ransom for many (Mark 10:45).

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