Summary: Those who are poor in spirit are those who have learned that trusting God is the only things that gives them life, and are the ones who are truly blessed.
Blessed are the Poor in Spirit
May 1, 2005
Sometimes, there are some interesting typos in new editions of the Bible. One edition of the Holy Book translated a verse from Exodus 20 as “Thou shall commit adultery.” John 8:11 was rendered “Go and sin on more.” I know that most people are like me and have been frustrated with our children from time to time. Apparently one of us translated Mark 7:25. It is supposed to read, “Let the children first be filled,” but was printed, “Let the children first be killed.” “Our ancestors” was once translated as “sour ancestors.” I was never a good student in math and started having trouble helping my kids with their math homework when they reached Middle School, so I appreciated the Bible which condemned “fractions.” It really meant to say “factions.” One Bible got hold of Matthew 5:9 and translated it as “Blessed are the placemakers.” (Illustrations takes from www.homeliticsonline.com Matthew 5:1-12, January 30, 2005).
I have read that there are proof reading services out there which read every page of new editions of the Bible in order to find those sorts of mistakes. I am really glad that those services are out there because, goodness knows, the Bible is hard enough to teach and understand without new obstacles being put in the way.
Today is the first sermon in a series on the beatitudes; those first few verses that kick off Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount. Beatitudes are short statements concerning the state of certain individuals. They announce that some particular folks are fortunate or blessed because of the lifestyle they live or the attitudes they cultivate.
It doesn’t take long to figure out that this is going to be a lot of work. I mean, it sounds like the beatitudes are full of errors. Look down through the list: blessed are the poor in spirit, those who mourn, those who are meek, those who are persecuted. You have to wonder if Jesus made a mistake. If not him, then maybe the mistakes were made at the printers.
Those are not beatitudes that make sense for the 21st century mindset. In today’s world, the fortunate ones are those with lots of disposable income, not the poor. The fortunate ones are those who are assured of themselves and self-confident, not those who mourn. The fortunate ones are those who joyfully paint the town red in their success, those who have the seats of power or access to those in seats of power, not the meek. The fortunate ones are those who give orders rather than take orders from others, not the persecuted. Those values are in direct opposition to the values stressed and lifted up by Jesus
For the next few weeks, we are going to look at these beatitudes one by one. I think that we will find that they are very counter-culture. They really don’t fit mainstream thinking. On the surface, they don’t seem to make much sense. At first glance, they don’t seem to be workable. First impressions tend to convince you that this is unrealistic, pie-in-the-sky stuff.
When we moderns confront the teachings of Jesus, we find that they just don’t make sense to us. Our reality and the reality of Jesus are different. It all begins with “Blessed are the poor in spirit.”
Go to the Gospel of Luke and you find this same teaching in what is known as “The Sermon on the Plain.” There, in Luke 6:20, the saying is rendered simply as “Blessed are you poor.”
Now, I don’t know about you, but I would go out of my way to be blessed. I would sit through a year’s worth of Elementary School band concerts to be blessed! I would stand in line all day in a snow storm to be blessed! I would read all of the Minor Prophets in one sitting to be blessed! But I’m not so sure that I want to be blessed if it means I have to be poor.
I’ve been to third world countries. I have seen the poor in places like Israel, Russia, Mexico, and Brazil. I don’t want to be poor. I have been to inner city neighborhoods in the United States. I have seen the poor in places like New York, Detroit, Indianapolis, and Chicago. I don’t want to be poor.
I’m pretty middle class. I enjoy being able to help my children go to college. I enjoy being able to drive a couple of relatively new cars. I enjoy being able to take my wife out to dinner a couple of times a week. I enjoy not having to plan too much if I want to go out and buy a new pair of cowboy boots.
In my ministry, I often have contact with poor folks who are searching for some help. I ache when I talk to some of these people who have to decide between food and heating oil. I always get a hollow feeling in my chest when I talk to people who are part of the working poor; people who honestly work hard, but still find it difficult to make ends meet. It hurts when I know that some people are doing the best they can, but their best isn’t good enough to make it in a difficult economy. I don’t want to be poor.