Summary: Are you poor in spirit?

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Matthew 5:3

Who Wants To Be A Beggar?

Woodlawn Baptist Church

February 15, 2004

“A man walked into the doctor’s office and said, “Doctor, I have this awful headache that never leaves me. Could you give me something for it?”

“I will,” said the doctor, “but I want to check a few things out first. Tell me, do you drink a lot of liquor?”

“Liquor?” said the man indignantly. “I never touch the filthy stuff.”

“How about smoking?”

“I think smoking is disgusting. I never in my life touched tobacco.”

“I’m a bit embarrassed to ask this, but – you know the way some men are – do you do any running around at night?”

“Of course not. What do you take me for? I’m in bed every night by ten o’clock at the latest.”

“Tell me,” said the doctor, “the pain in the head you speak of, it is a sharp, shooting kind of pain?”

“Yes” said the man. “That’s it – a sharp, shooting kind of pain.”

“Simple, my dear fellow! Your trouble is you have your halo on too tight. All we need to do is loosen it a bit.”

Have you ever been around anyone so impossibly convinced of his own holiness? If you have, you probably didn’t want to be around them for long – unless you are equally convinced of your own holiness. As you read the gospel accounts, you find that Jesus frequently found Himself in the company of such people. Remember the rich young ruler? He came to Jesus wanting to know what he had to do to inherit eternal life, and Jesus began to tell him. Here stood a young man so enamored with his own holiness that he told Jesus had had never broken one of the Ten Commandments. Perhaps you remember on countless other occasions how the Pharisees found it appalling that Jesus would spend so much time eating with prostitutes and publicans – those sinners!

We have a difficult time seeing what the big deal is about eating with someone, but it meant a great deal in that day. The class system of Jesus’ day legally forbid good and decent folk from mingling with sinners who were outside the law: table fellowship with beggars, tax collectors and prostitutes was a religious, social and cultural no-no. In that day, to share a meal with someone was to say to him, “I would like to enter into friendship with you.” Jesus was breaking the law and was overstepping societal boundaries that had to be maintained if common God-fearing folk were to stay clean and clear of “sinners.”

Imagine how you would feel if you threw a big banquet, and everyone you invited was a VIP. You spared no expense, and were going to enjoy an evening with the community socialites. This was going to be a time of elbow rubbing, a time to make a name for yourself, and just as everyone is arriving in their expensive suits and gowns, just as everyone is making merry with good food and wine, I showed up with the city drunk in his smelly street clothes. On my other side is the lady you’ve seen all over town, the one who gives herself to any and every man for her next high. Why, I’ve got with me three or four such people, and you get angry with me for ruining your party. Oh, that would never happen! I don’t even know those kinds of people Brother Kevin. Well then suppose I invited them to our next church fellowship – how many of you would counsel me about the wisdom of doing such a thing? Don’t say you wouldn’t do it, because we’ve talked about it before. How many times have you and I complained about someone taking too much food and piling it in bags at our fellowship meals? You know, the kind of people that we hide the take-out boxes from? I think you and I know exactly how the Pharisees felt – and you know exactly what kind of people I’m talking about. Shame on us! Shame on us for being that way.

· “There’s no such thing as a free lunch.” “You get what you deserve.”

· “You want money? Then get out and work for it.” “You want love? Earn it.”

· “You want mercy? Show me you deserve it.”

As I prepared these things I have said to you, I felt ashamed at how I have treated people, at how I behaved and still behave. Perhaps you don’t, but if you’ve done what I’ve mentioned, then you ought to. I was ashamed because I suddenly saw myself as ugly and harsh, and I saw it best in the beatitude we are considering today. Look with me at Matthew 5:3. Jesus said,

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