When Poverty Brings Blessing

The world admires those who are “rich in spirit” – the confident, capable men and women who run the government, business, education, entertainment, and the media. We are taught to believe in ourselves, express ourselves, fulfill ourselves, promote ourselves. The self-doubting, self-effacing, self-critical do not command respect. But Jesus promised nothing less than the kingdom of heaven [that is, the kingdom of God] to “the poor in spirit.” Those who know they are spiritually poor already begin to enjoy citizenship in God’s everlasting empire. Who are the “poor in spirit”? What are they like? As always, we look first to the sacred history for the answer. Consider the example of: David, who pleaded, “For Your name’s sake, O LORD, pardon my iniquity, for it is great… Turn Yourself to me, and have mercy on me, for I am desolate [lonely] and afflicted” (Psalm 25:11, 16). Solomon, who began his youthful kingship with a request for Divine assistance: “Now O LORD my God, You have made Your servant king instead of my father David, but I am a little child; I do not know how to go out or come in… Therefore give to Your servant an understanding heart… that I may discern between good and evil” (1 Kings 3:6,9). The Gentile woman who begged Jesus to deliver her daughter from a demon: ”Yes, Lord, yet even the little dogs eat the crumbs which fall from their master’s table” (Matthew 15:27). Paul, that pre-eminent apostle, missionary, and saint, who yet confessed, “I know that in me, that is in my flesh, dwells no good thing” (Romans 7:18). Jesus uttered nothing new when He declared such people truly blessed, for surely He knew the seven-hundred-year-old prophecy given through Isaiah, “For thus says the High and Lofty One who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy: I dwell in the high and holy place, with him who has a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble and to revive the heart of the contrite ones” (Isaiah 57:15).