Beatitudes · Poor in Spirit

W5: Poor in Spirit: Stumbling Blocks

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”

Matthew 5:3

What makes a poor person not poor anymore?  Ownership!

It may seem silly or obvious when put so simply, but it’s the truth!  Someone is no longer considered poor when they start owning stuff.  It’s all relative, of course.  A middle class American’s idea of poor will be different than someone in a 3rd world country’s idea.  But when you own what you need, you are no longer poor in that category.  You are no longer dependent on an outside party to provide it for you—you already own it! 

There is security with ownership.  Control.   Self-sufficiency.  Pride.  I like all of those feelings!  But having them means I am no longer poor.  If my goal is to be Poor in Spirit, then I must remember that there is much more to give away than just ownership of physical possessions.  Relying on my own strength, wisdom, hope, courage, etc. also prevents me from being Poor in Spirit.  If I am personally rich in those areas, I will have a much more difficult time depending on God in them.

It’s such a conundrum!  If we have stuff, and that means we have trouble being Poor in Spirit, should we just become pitiful bums, living on the street and daily praying that God will send us a piece of bread?  But then how would we get anything done?  If we have no strength, how can we serve others?  If we have no wisdom, how can we make Godly decisions?  If we have no hope, how will we even worship the God who created us?  And if we do not have what we need for our physical bodies, how will we honor them as temples of God?  Being Poor in Spirit seems to negate all of the Bible verses about being richly blessed and getting what we need from God.  If He is giving us stuff—how can we be poor???  And then why would Jesus say that being Poor in Spirit leads to blessing?

But I don’t think that He intends for us to be bums at all.  God loves us and wants to provide for our needs.  He wants us to receive strength, hope, faith, joy, etc.  So I think the major key here is STEWARDSHIP not OWNERSHIP.  Stewardship implies possessing without owning.  A steward takes care of what he has been given, but when he leaves that position, the things remain with the owner. 

Being Poor in Spirit means enjoying the many blessings that God gives us, but with the attitude and realization that they are His to own and ours to manage.  When our spirit is poor, we are dependent upon God even when we know that our next meal is already in our refrigerator.  We rely on Him for wisdom even when we are smart enough to solve a problem.  Our spirit knows that He has given us these things to use—but they belong to Him.

How do we adopt this mindset?  I think it’s easier to wrap our minds around the importance of surrendering the tangible things and giving them to God.  But as I was praying about the intangibles like strength, joy, etc. I began to realize that even these must be given up if we are truly going to be Poor in Spirit.  If we ask God to give us strength, then it becomes ours.  But if we ask God to BE our strength, then the strength remains with Him—the source.

Imagine you are going to iron some clothes (or ironing bead projects which is more likely in my house!  😊).  You plug in the iron and let it heat up.  And then you bend down to the electrical outlet, tell it “thank you” for the heat, unplug it, and begin to iron.  Why would you do that!?  You’ll be able to accomplish some of your ironing because of the heat provided, but the iron will start to cool off once it is disconnected from the heat source.  How silly!

And yet, spiritually, when we try to own what God is giving us, it loses power too.  We can pray, “God give me joy!”, He gives us some joy, we take it with a “thank you!”, and then we walk away going about our business.  But how much more powerful it is if our provision remains connected to the source!  We can pray “God, BE my joy”.  Lord, don’t give me strength, BE my strength.  Don’t save me, BE my salvation.  Don’t give me hope, BE my hope.  Don’t send me provision, BE my provider. 

See the difference?  All of these blessings are ours to use while they remain in their source.  We don’t need to own them—we can be poor and still have everything we need because we are connected to that source of everything we need.  We can be Poor in Spirit when our spirit forgoes ownership and instead settles for stewardship. 

For the record, I do not believe that asking God to give us strength, joy, hope, etc. is in any way wrong or sinful.  I just know that words are powerful and the way we phrase things can be powerful as well.  So phrasing a request in a way that reminds us to stay connected to the source might be just what we need to remember to actually do it! 😉

Being Poor in Spirit might not be so bad after all!

To think and pray about this week:

  1. Becoming Poor in Spirit is difficult for me because it means giving up control and self-sufficiency.  Are those the stumbling blocks you face too, or do you have other stumbling blocks keeping you from becoming Poor in Spirit? 
  2. What do you most need from God right now?  Ask Him to “be” it instead of just giving it to you and see if your perspective changes! 
  3. Read John 15:1-17.  Like the iron when plugged in, we can accomplish so much more spiritually when connected to the Source!  If we would remain in Jesus, as He tells us to, do you think it would also be easier to be Poor in Spirit? 

If you are like me and like to have an earworm reminder following you throughout the day, check out this oldie but goodie!  Be Thou My Vision is a great hymn that speaks of God being what we need!

Dear Lord, thank you for the wisdom you’ve given us in the Bible.  Thank you for being our salvation and our hope.  Thank you for being our strength and our peace.  Thank you for being our provider and our rock.  Thank you for the reminder that everything we have is yours.  Help us to honor you with what you’ve allowed us to be stewards of: our time, energy, talents, money, possessions, etc.  Let us be in the habit of continually surrendering ownership of them so that we may be Poor in Spirit despite being richly blessed.  In Jesus’ Name, Amen!

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