“Blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”
These words begin one of the most famous sermons preached during the time of Jesus, the Sermon on the Mount. I say sermon, but biblical commentators are not in agreement as to whether this was one sermon or a collection of sermons preached over the lifetime of Jesus. Either way, there is much for us to learn from these words.
So what does it mean to be “poor in spirit?”
The poverty of spirit means that we are open to God rather than playing God in our lives. The poverty of spirit is not something that is easily practiced, and we have to give over some, if not all, of our wants and desires to that of God in our lives. By doing this, we acknowledge our needs in the hope that they come in alignment with what God wants for us in our lives and we begin to live for others and not just for ourselves.
When we give over a portion of our lives, and eventually the entirety of our lives, to God, we encounter the Kingdom of God right here on earth. Acknowledging this idea that we cannot do it alone, we open the door to a greater awareness of, and a willingness to respond to, God’s presence around us. We also begin to acknowledge the needs of others around us, the blinders come off our eyes, and we start to see the other in the world around us.
Our culture raises us to be independent and instills in us the idea that we do not need anyone, but our Christian life asks us to become interdependent with God, with our fellow human beings, and with all of the creation. In other words, we need each other, but we have to be able to see the value of the other in our lives.
Being poor in spirit has nothing to do with material wealth it has to do with the interior of the person and how we see the other. If we see others as things that can be possessed and used for our needs and discarded after we use them, then we are not living as the poor in spirit. We have to have a concern for and support the “least of these” in society. As Christians, we have to have the heart for those who suffer from “material poverty” and not judge them for it.
The very heart of Christianity is a concern for those around us, to be poor in spirit is to have that concern, but it also means that we, as individuals and as a community, need to rely on God in our lives.